Federal and Pennsylvania officials agreed to a settlement in which the state will pay $48.8 million to compensate for improper payments it made to illegal immigrants, but don't bother asking for details about the deal.
A Department of Justice statement last week revealed that Pennsylvania settled to resolve claims that it provided Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and food stamps to aliens that did not meet requirements outlined by law from 2004 to 2010.
“With this $48.8 million recovery, we believe the United States will be made whole by the settlement,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas. The federal government claimed Pennsylvania officials provided Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and food stamps to ineligible immigrants.
The settlement is “fair and reasonable,” said U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith, who was involved in the case.
Neither the Justice Department nor Pennsylvania officials, however, would provide details of the case such as how many ineligible immigrants received the assistance or why the federal government decided to seek the recovery of funds. Additionally, neither would say whether the benefits were provided because of mistakes by state officials or as a result of fraud by the recipients.
“We know a large majority of the claims involved lawful permanent residents pending their waiting period, but we cannot comment further on the breakdown or numbers involved,” Navas said. “There’s nothing more we can comment on, because this is a settlement agreement."
Details of the case are so shrouded that it’s uncertain how the claims arose. Federal law stipulates that only legal immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years and who meet certain low-income requirements can receive benefits.
“Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General notified the commonwealth that it was going to perform an audit,” said PA DHS spokeswoman Kait Gillis. “I am uncertain as to what prompted that audit, as they are standard and routine practice.”
However, no IG audit was published. Gillis also could not comment further.
“There doesn’t appear to be a public audit,” said HHS IG spokeswoman Katherine Harris. “[The audit team] did some basic verification of raw data and numbers provided by the state, but no actual audit,” Harris said.
The settlement will be paid quarterly over a five-year period in amounts of about $2.4 million.