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Chautauqua County agency saves $8.5 million with better fraud identification

MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County’s Department of Social Services has made major improvements in identifying fraud and other costs in the welfare system, according to Director Christine Schuyler.

She provided a letter from the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance that reviewed “integrity initiatives” for 2013. She commented on the letter and a variety of other reports at the Health and Human Services Committee meeting held Wednesday at the Gerace Office Building.

Schuyler said the report highlighted about $8.5 million in savings. She said just two years ago only $2 million was identified in the same categories. The largest amount saved was in detecting fraudulent applications.

The state report listed an estimate of $7.7 million saved because the social service’s staff found incidents of fraud at the start of an application. The total applications flagged as fraudulent was 1,021 for 2013. Another half-million in savings was realized from finding 106 duplicate applications. There were also 35 applications disqualified for intentionally violating the program.

Schuyler said she has a new employee who will specifically target applicants who refuse to participate in programs to gain employment. She said that applicants who continually refuse and who do not discuss their progress will be denied benefits.

Schuyler also provided a report on the number of new applicants to the county system in March. The report finds that 28 applications were received from outside of Chautauqua County. The majority of the out-of-state applications in March – 12 – was from Puerto Rico. There were five applicants from Pennsylvania and the remainder from other states.

There were 1,013 applications received in March. Schuyler said that 32 percent of the applications were denied for a variety of reasons.

Members of the committee also heard from George Spanos, county facilities director. Spanos said he was opposed to a new proposal by New York State Medicaid which would not allow the county to schedule medical transportation for bus riders. The county operates the Chautauqua Area Rural Transportation System. It provides small buses to take residents to various locations.

Spanos said the group has been doing Medicaid transportation for New York State recipients of the program. He said their trips are organized in groups as often as possible. He said the new Medicaid scheduling system will not try to add more than one rider for each trip and will increase costs. He asked that legislators support a motion in opposition to the new scheduling system.

A resolution may be prepared for the next legislative meeting.

Committee members also approved Elizabeth Turzillo of Silver Creek to the Chautauqua County Aging Advisory Board, Legislator Janet Keefe (D-Fredonia) to the Chautauqua Opportunities Board of Directors and Jordan Mulholland of DeWittville to the county’s youth board.