Verification system sniffs out false subsidy claims

The Housing and Urban Development department is using a system to crack down on
residents who receive housing subsidies illegally.


The Tenant Eligibility Verification System (TEVS), rolled out nationally this year,
collects recipient eligibility records filed with local housing authorities and checks
them against Social Security Administration and IRS records, said David L. Decker,
supervisory auditor for HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing Controller. It also
lets local housing authorities and HUD exchange the information over the Internet.


The system helps monitor tenant compliance with income reporting and eligibility
requirements, helps recoup overpayments and prevents future abuses, Decker said. TEVS is
also cheaper than the old method of tracking resident income.


“It’s a more efficient process,” Decker said.


HUD analysts can also use data gathered through TEVS to measure the effectiveness of
housing programs and manage available housing.


HUD tenants must file annual income statements with local housing authorities to
qualify for subsidized housing. Under the old system, the authorities would send the
income data directly to SSA. The Third Party Query System used mark-sense cards, which
tenants would complete by filling in spaces with a No. 2 pencil.


SSA workers would scan the cards and store the tenant data on the SSA database. SSA
would mail back a printout of the reports to each housing authority for verification. But
the system made it difficult to compare discrepancies in income data, Decker said.


Local housing authorities would only send in income information if a tenant reported
his earnings that year, Decker said.


If a tenant didn’t fill out a card, HUD often failed to detect renters who were
less than honest about their income.


TVES lets authorities collect income and other data and send it to HUD over the
Internet using TCP/IP or proprietary SprintMail. The housing authorities use HUD-designed
software, called Family Records 2.0, to collect the data and transmit it using appropriate
electronic HUD forms. The tenant data is stored in HUD’s Multifamily Tenant
Characteristics System (MTCS), which uses a UniAccess Open Database Connectivity server
from Applied Information Sciences Inc. of Greenbelt, Md. It runs under SunSoft Solaris and
uses a relational database management system.


TEVS pulls the income and personal data from MTCS by name, Social Security number and
address.


Rather than having SSA provide a list, HUD sends a list of tenants to SSA via an
Integrated Services Digital Network. SSA then pulls income data from its system and sends
it to TEVS the next business day.


“We just send SSA personal identifiers. We don’t send the tenant’s
income” that was reported to the housing authority, Decker said. “When we get
the data back from SSA, we compare it against what the tenant actually reported,” he
said.


TEVS, which operates on a Compaq Computer Corp. ProLiant 6000 server running Microsoft
Windows NT and a Microsoft SQL Server database, produces reports on tenants with
discrepancies in their income reports.


The reports are distributed to housing agencies via e-mail, Decker said. The system
will be expanded to send the reports to housing owners and rental agents that administer
Section 8 programs, he said.


About 1,600 housing agencies can obtain data via a secure HUD Web site. Security is
maintained with Secure Sockets Layer security, incorporated into Web browsers such as
Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer.


The reports are prepared on the TEVS server using Crystal Reports 5.0 from Seagate
Software of Vancouver, HUD computer specialist Yanja Lee said. That data is loaded onto
Jaz drives from Iomega Corp. of Roy, Utah, and moved onto a Sun Microsystems Inc. Solaris
Enterprise Web Server, she said. People accessing the TEVS reports never have access to
the TEVS database, she said.    

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