Lawmakers uncover fraud in LIHEAP program


The report found that more than 11,000 dead people and hundreds of prisoners were used as applicants for LIHEAP benefits. More than 1,000 federal employees whose federal salary exceeded the maximum income threshold received benefits. In several cases, people living in million-dollar homes paid their utility bills using money from the program, which is run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

"This is yet another poster child of waste, fraud and abuse," Walden said in prepared remarks. "Taxpayers may have been cheated out of more than $100 million because HHS couldn't figure out that the deceased don't need energy assistance."

The GAO report uncovered in Illinois that $540 in energy assistance was given to an applicant who used the identities of two deceased family members to qualify for the funds. In New Jersey, the program gave $3,200 in assistance to a nursing home whose director claimed to represent eight patients residing in the facility, but whose care was already covered by Medicaid.

GAO investigators also posed as prospective LIHEAP recipients by producing bogus addresses, fabricating energy bills and pay stubs when applying for assistance. Many of the claims received payments.

"LIHEAP is supposed to be for poor people, not for cheats who pose as something or someone they're not and get their paperwork rubber-stamped by gullible government officials," Barton said. "It's [HHS] Secretary Sebelius's responsibility to run this program right, and she needs to start doing it by stopping this fraud."