The Department of Human Resources has sent the names of 44 people suspected of defrauding about $282,000 of welfare money to the Corporation Counsel's Office for possible prosecution, acting DHR director Albert p.Russo announced yesterday.
The cases, discovered during a continuing DHR effort to eliminate fraudulent and erroneous welfare payments, include eight or nine persons suspected of getting duplicate benefits under fictitious names, according to DHR legal counsel Charles J. Baron.
Russo revealed the allegations of fraud two days after a former DHR employee, Valjeane C. King, was sentenced to six months in jail for defrauding the city of over $40,000 in welfare payments by using a false name. Baron said none of the 44 cases involve DHR workers.
"Most, if not all," of the cases appear to include evidence of willful intent to defraud, Baron said. The District of Columnia loses millions of dollars a year in erroneous welfare payments, but DHR officials have attributed many of the errors to unintentional inaccuracies in recipents' eligibility records.
Baron said that among other abuses in the 44 case, DHR investigators found indications of women falsely claiming to be the sole income-earners in their homes or stating that they were single parents while actually living with their childrens' fathers.
Baron said the department seeks restitution of erroneous payments "even if there is no willful intent" to defraud. DHR recouped about $38,000 in wrongly paid benefits over the past year, he said.
About 10 per cent of the 80 recent cases of suspected fraud sent to the corporation counsel were returned for DHR to handle, Baron said. Other cases are under investigation, and three, including King's, have resulted in prosecution in the past six months.
Russo reported the alleged welfare abuses at a news conference where he also reported DHR progress in a variety of other programs. "DHR is alive and well," said Russo who took over the troubled agency two months ago when its director for the past five years, Joseph P. Yeldell, was suspended. He also announced:
Restoration of DHR's adult protective services program, made possible by the return of workers who had been detailed to the welfare branch to eliminate payment errors.
The mayor's submission to Congress of a $6.2 million DHR budget supplement for 1977 that, if approved, will allow 40,000 medically needy persons to remain on Medicaid and provide for increases totaling $2 million in Medicaid payments to private nursing homes for indigent patients.
DHR waa sued in U.S. court last week for failing to raise the nursing home payments, and allegedly denying hundreds of the elderly poor proper care. Russo said DHR had sought the additional funding long before the suit was filed.
The hiring of about 120 additional workers at Forest Haven, the city's troubled home for the mentally retarded. Congress has authorized $4 million to hire 307 new staff members at the institution.
Further progress toward regaining accreditation for D.C. General Hospital.
Major problems persist throughout DHR, however, Russo and his chief assistants said. These include:
The inability to hire 20 protective services workers for child abuse prevention, and 50 workers for timely processing of welfare applications, because of the city's personnel ceiling.
Threatened loss of about $5 million in Medicaid payments to D.C. Village, the District's home for the elderly, because of deficiencies cited by federal inspectors.
Continued administration of medicine by nonlicensed employees at Forest Haven in violation of a federal requirement. Russo said a federal crackdown on this problem is imminent.