Use of Biometric Identification Technology to Reduce Fraud in the Food Stamp Program: Final Report: USDA GOVT WEBSITE


Use of Biometric Identification Technology to Reduce Fraud in the Food Stamp Program: Final Report


Biometric identification technology provides automated methods to      identify a person based on physical characteristics—such as      fingerprints, hand shape, and characteristics of the eyes and face—as      well as behavioral characteristics—including signatures and voice      patterns. Although used in law enforcement and defense for several years,      it has recently been used in civilian applications and shows some promise      to reduce the number of duplicate cases in the Food Stamp Program (FSP)      and other assistance programs       

Biometric identification systems are currently operational at some      level in Arizona, California (under county initiative, first by Los      Angeles County), Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New      York, and Texas. Finger imaging is the principal form of technology used      in all eight States, though alternative technologies have simultaneously      undergone trials in Massachusetts (facial recognition) and Illinois      (retinal scanning). By the end of 2000, new systems are expected to be in      place in California (statewide unified system), Delaware, and North      Carolina. Other States are currently in the initial planning stages,      including Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and      South Carolina. However, there is little information available at this      point regarding the specific course and trajectory these States will      follow in terms of system types, implementation schedules, and the benefit      programs in which they will implement the new requirement.      

This report provides an overview of the experience of nine States with      biometric identification technologies as of September 1999 and discusses      some of the major policy and operational issues encountered during      implementation and testing. The report also synthesizes available      information on the effectiveness of the technology in reducing duplicate      participation and provides a discussion of measurement complexities and      issues on the horizon as use of the technology continues to expand. A      companion report contains an overview of biometric identification      technology, examining the functional capabilities, performance, and      applications of the various technologies with a particular focus on finger      imaging, the most commonly used and well known.      

Telephone interviews of 1-2 hours in duration were conducted in      May-June 1998 with representatives of human service agencies in Arizona,      California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York,      and Pennsylvania. As part of an earlier task of this study, we conducted      site visits to San Antonio, Texas to observe the Lone Star Image System (LSIS)      demonstration and to interview State and county agency staff. Information      on Texas is based on those visits and interviews. The States interviewed,      with the exception of Pennsylvania, have installed biometric      identification systems and are requiring applicants to federal and State      benefit programs to submit to the new procedures during the eligibility      determination process.      

The purpose of the interviews was to explore State experiences with      biometric identification systems, including factors in the decision-making      and planning processes, the dynamics of system start-up and      implementation, issues and problems related to system and agency      operations, and perceptions regarding the impact of biometric      identification procedures on the application and eligibility determination      processes. Each of the States participating in the study was asked to      provide a description of the critical early events that occurred during      the planning phases of their respective projects. In addition, those      States that had already implemented systems were asked to describe their      implementation experiences.      

Results of State Interviews      

When finger-imaging technology was first applied to reduce multiple      participation fraud in assistance programs, there were many concerns about      the performance and reliability of the technology in a social service      application, as well as about the potential stigma that a finger-image      requirement would place on potential clients. The experience of the eight      States that have incorporated finger imaging into the process of applying      for welfare assistance suggests that many of these fears were unfounded.      Finger imaging has been readily integrated into the human services      programs of the affected states. However, despite the positive reaction to      finger imaging from the State officials we interviewed, there is still      uncertainty regarding the extent to which this technology can reduce      multiple participation fraud.      

The States planned for implementation of their biometric identification      systems in response to a wide variety of factors and considerations      idiosyncratic to each State environment. Some States reported that their      respective legislative mandates, which prescribed specific dates by which      biometric systems were required to be in place, allowed insufficient time      for development and planning. The States developed and followed      implementation schedules in accordance with internal priorities and      considerations. The States uniformly described their implementation      processes as largely uneventful, though they encountered a variety of      minor implementation issues, most of which were associated with the      logistical difficulties of mobilizing and managing such a complex      initiative.      

Preparing staff for the implementation of the biometric systems, both      philosophically and operationally, took different forms, priorities, and      levels of effort in the States. At implementation, advance notification to      clients and/or the general public about new biometric client      identification procedures was considered important by all State      representatives. The objective of providing advance notification was to      inform and prepare clients for the additional application or      recertification step (i.e., to explain the requirement and who is required      to submit, and to address client concerns), as well as to accelerate      enrollment of the existing caseload. All States prepared informational      mailings to clients advising them of the new requirement. Some States      reported developing additional outreach media including multilingual      (English and Spanish) videos, posters, and brochures for viewing and      distribution in the local office. Most of the States also identified      various outlets in the community through which they informed the general      public in advance about the implementation of biometric client      identification procedures.      

The States with operating systems reported that implementation of new      biometric client identification procedures had a negligible impact on      operations at the local office level. In general, States also reported      that the problems and obstacles encountered in operating their respective      projects are not unlike those encountered in demonstrating any new      technology or procedural modification. These States also reported that      their systems and procedures were implemented without unexpected      difficulty and were rapidly institutionalized. All the States confronted a      range of basic physical space and logistical issues, including where to      situate the new equipment, how to appropriately alter job descriptions,      who to reassign or hire to handle the new procedures, and how to adjust      the flow of clients and paperwork most efficiently. However, none reported      any particularly noteworthy difficulties. States reported that clients      have been cooperative and accepting of the technology.      

Finger Imaging and Fraud Reduction      

Assessing the ability of finger imaging to reduce fraud is difficult      because the amount of fraud caused by duplicate participation in welfare      programs is unknown, and because changes in caseload after the      introduction of finger imaging cannot be interpreted unambiguously as      reduction of fraud. The evaluations of finger imaging systems conducted by      six States have produced the following findings.      

  • A small number of duplicate applications (approximately 1 duplicate          for every 5,000 cases) have been detected by finger imaging systems.          Finger-imaging systems appear to detect more fraud in statewide          implementations than in regional pilot systems. Additional matches          have been found by interstate comparisons of finger-image data.        
  • Institution of a finger-imaging requirement can produce a          significant, short-term reduction in caseload, because some existing          clients refuse to comply with the requirement. The number of refusals          depends on the implementation procedures and appears to be lower when          finger imaging is incorporated into the recertification process.        
  • The most carefully controlled estimate of non-compliance among          existing clients suggests that introduction of a finger-imaging          requirement reduces participation by approximately 1.3%. However, this          estimate reflects both reduced fraud and deterrence of eligible          individuals and households.

Finger Imaging as a Deterrent to Legitimate      Participants      

Clients do have some concerns about finger imaging. Roughly 15%      expressed concerns in the State surveys and interviews conducted to      evaluate finger-imaging programs. These concerns center on issues of      privacy, unjust treatment of poor people, inconvenience, and fear of      interagency sharing.      

There is little data on which to estimate the size of the deterrence      effect. Based on the results from client surveys in five States, a      substantial majority of clients had no objection to finger imaging and      thought it was a good idea.      

There was little evidence that clients discontinued benefits because      they were intimidated by the finger-image requirement. Interviews with      former clients in Texas found that only two of the 78 former food stamp      recipients (both of whom had refused to be imaged) attributed their loss      of benefits to finger imaging. Similar interviews in Los Angeles County      found that, of those former clients interviewed, no one who refused to be      finger imaged expressed a concern with the process.      

Cost and Effectiveness of Finger Imaging      

Since there is no reliable estimate of the magnitude of duplicate      participation in the FSP, there is uncertainty regarding the cost      effectiveness of finger imaging. Available data are inadequate to make      precise estimates of either the costs or benefits of finger imaging for      the FSP. Calculations using the data that are available, supplemented by a      number of assumptions, suggest that reduction in caseload covers the costs      of finger imaging technology. However, the percentage of the caseload      reduction due to decreased multiple participation is unclear.      

The analysis makes no assumption about how costs or benefits are      allocated among Federal or State agencies. In addition, it does not      include the cost required to modify existing software to make it      compatible with the finger-imaging system. Finally, it does not take into      account that certain cost elements, such as the cost for infrastructure or      centralized equipment, may be independent of caseload fluctuation.

Last modified: 02/17/2012                                                        

Categories: Bible Prophecy, Breaking News, Wellness/Health

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