grocery shopping

Virginia to pay $7.1M after manipulating food stamp data

This article originally appeared in Stateline, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Virginia will repay the federal government about $7.1 million to resolve allegations that it manipulated data related to the state’s food stamp program.

Under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, states must submit data to the federal government about who is eligible for the program, including an error rate that represents the accuracy of the data. The Virginia Department of Social Services admitted that, from 2010 to 2014, it used improper methods to decrease the error rate it reported, according to an announcement this week from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Today’s settlement sends a strong message regarding the Government’s commitment to work across agency lines to protect the integrity of SNAP,” said Bethanne M. Dinkins, special agent-in-charge for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, in the announcement.

A Stateline analysis in 2014 found that as participation in the food stamp program grew, most states reported a decline in error rates, from 8 percent in 2002 to about 3.7 percent in 2014. The USDA gives bonuses to states that report the lowest and the most improved error rates each year, and can charge fees to states with high error rates that don’t show improvement.

The Justice Department said that through its use of biased methods, Virginia was improperly awarded bonuses from 2011 to 2013. State employees were pressured by a consultant to “use whatever means necessary” to report a decision about food stamp benefits as correct, rather than admitting an error, the department said.

The USDA did a thorough review of state quality control systems in 2014 and found data quality issues in 42 of 53 states.

About the Author

Jen Fifield is a staff reporter at Stateline.


  • Records management: Look beyond the NARA mandates

    Records management is about to get harder

    New collaboration technologies ramped up in the wake of the pandemic have introduced some new challenges.

  • puzzled employee (fizkes/

    Phish Scale: Weighing the threat from email scammers

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Phish Scale quantifies characteristics of phishing emails that are likely to trick users.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.