Vermont fraud expert says abuse is common as feds push food stamp reform

While the Trump administration is taking action to reduce food stamp fraud, the president’s critics are crying foul, and Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan is urging citizens to voice their opposition to coming changes in the program.

In the U.S., about 42 million people use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. Individual use of the program is around $126 per month per person.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

THE BREAD LINE: Food stamps help many poor Americans put food on the table, but critics say loopholes allow severe abuse of the system.

The Trump administration argues that a rule change by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program, is necessary to stop rampant abuse that in come cases has allowed even wealthy people to obtain food stamps.

Presently, 43 states let residents be automatically registered for SNAP if they already receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). According to the Trump administration, those automatically qualifying for SNAP through TANF were not having their assets reviewed in the same way as those applying for SNAP without TANF. The rule change now mandates that TANF recipients have their assets and income reviewed accordingly.

Also, to qualify for SNAP under this proposal, the household must have been getting TANF-funded cash or non-cash benefits of at least $50 per month for six months. Non-cash benefits would be restricted to work supports, subsidized employment, or childcare.
Last week Donovan said an estimated 3 million Americans would be prevented from using food stamps if the president’s plans are implemented.

Donovan says this new policy keeps food away from those who need it most. He estimates up to $7.5 million in Vermont’s federal support would be cut.

Vermont’s three-member congressional delegation — Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Patrick Leahy, and Rep. Peter Welch — have co-signed a letter condemning the Trump administration rule changes.

“SNAP is a successful program that lifted 8.4 million people across the country out of poverty in 2015 alone,” they wrote. “Vermont’s automatic enrollment of SNAP recipients is an important piece of the program’s success. It allows families to build the assets they need to lift themselves out of poverty without fearing that they will lose their benefits. A single parent shouldn’t have to choose between a promotion and school lunch for their children.”

But Shelly Palmer, a former state House candidate from Williston, agrees that food stamp abuse is a serious problem. In addition to serving as a bail bondsman and having worked in federal immigration enforcement, Palmer is a fraud expert, specializing in money laundering and counterfeiting.

He says food stamp fraud is abundant in Vermont. In particular, he cites a cards-for-cash scheme in which SNAP card holders who want cash for drugs or other illicit goods will purchase groceries for non-SNAP users in return for hard cash — for example, 50 cents on the dollar.

“Now they can buy heroin, cat food, cigarettes, prostitutes, anything they want,” Palmer said. “When you look at the food stamp benefit program, a significant percentage of it goes for not-food-stamp stuff.”

Palmer said it’s also common for illegal immigrants to acquire multiple EBT (food stamp) cards using a variety of techniques. Since illegals don’t have either a social security number, the identification process is dubious, allowing a single individual to obtain more food stamp money than is allowed.

“There are many people who collect many benefits, and there’s little or no accountability for giving out these benefits,” Palmer said. “So they get a disproportionately large amount of stuff and the people who are actually eligible and deserving of the benefits get less.”

The number of documented food stamp fraud cases nationwide is increasing significantly — up to $592.7 million in 2016 from $367.1 million in 2012 — according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That includes reported cases only.

The Vermont Department for Children and Families sees fraud as serious enough to justify a “Report Benefits Fraud” button at the top of its benefits page.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

9 thoughts on “Vermont fraud expert says abuse is common as feds push food stamp reform

  1. Nice to see that our infamous Senator Leahy was weighed in on the Ukraine fiasco. Double standards? You’re getting careless Pat. You’re not on top of your sneaky leaky game any more. Anyone wondering where leaks originate from should look at you. You’ve been caught before remember? Isn’t it time for Donovan to replace you?

  2. Welfare fraud doesn’t exist in Vermont. It’s allowed therefore it’s not a crime. Isn’t that how we do things now? Don’t like the law .. no problem just don’t follow it or enforce it. Unless of course it’s something the Dem’s want to prosecute.

    • We all know T.J. Donovan is a partisan hack looking to buy his way into a governorship. He does not enforce current law nor does not support or defend Federal law, yet he is willing to defend any unconstitutional law that the progressive legislature puts forth.
      Vermont needs to rid itself of Donovan and all those legislators who take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and once in office seek to unlawfully change the supreme document of our State and Country!!!

  3. So weary of people like TJ Donovan who worm their way into positions of power, then use the money of hard working Vermonters to finance their personal political ambitions. Donovan is about as interested in detecting and preventing fraud as I am in having Crazy Bernie for our president.

  4. Hey Donovan, just in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a lot of fraud going on out there. Since you are not doing what the folks elected you to do, don’t blame the Feds for picking up the slack. If an ineligible family of four receives a shade over $500/month for food stamps, should those who play by the rules be expected to support those who choose for whatever reason to game the system?????? I personally don’t think so.

  5. So very sick of TJ Donovan, he runs his office as if he is some supreme leader, instead of doing what is right for our citizens……..saving money and ridding us of fraud is his job.

  6. “fraud cases nationwide is increasing significantly — up to $592.7 million in 2016 from $367.1 million in 2012 ”

    and our very own 3 stoogies and 1 stooge in training want to continue the trend to waste tax revenue as is the DemonRAT way….Pres Trump thinks of the country as whole while the stooges think of it only in who can be used as their victim this case the illegals over the citizens

  7. T. J. Donovan is a well known political hack looking for governorship. He’ll agree with anything if it moves his political agenda forward… to hell with the law or the taxpayer.
    If you’re on the public dole, all your personal income must be revealed before you qualify.

  8. If it’s a Government Program, then you know it being abused as we know the supervision for these
    programs is next to none, sign up and your good to go

    All recipients should have to turn in their receipts for good purchased and watch the trash they buy
    I personally have seen shopping carts full of junk food, all being paid with an EBT card.

    As stated in this article, sell the food for pennies on the dollar and you can get your cigarettes
    and beer ……. Illegals signing up multiple times…….appalling.

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