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Welfare Fraud
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I don't have any first-hand experiences of Medicare/Medicaid fraud, so I really can't speak to that issue.

However, during my teaching career in south central Los Angeles and also in the area called "the jungle", I was working with and teaching in a community where there were many welfare recipients.

In the hundreds of families I dealt with, I came across only two cases of fraud, one in which a woman was getting multiple welfare checks using multiple identities, and the other where children were being shared, to increase the family size (so much money per child) and hence the amount of the award.

I came across the latter quite by accident as a third grade teacher (7- and 8-year-olds). At the beginning of each year, teachers are required to make out attendance cards with the child's name, address, birthdate, and so forth, and take attendance daily.

One child was absent nearly 50% of the time (and qualified for free lunches and health exam if I could only get a parental signature) and I had no luck contacting the family--no working telephone, no one home when I visited, no response to notes.

As grade level chairperson, I organized a committee to see if we could contact parents by comparing names and addresses, looking for neighboring families who might be able to help us.

We found the child in my class was also enrolled in another third grade class under a different last name, different address, same birthdate. I wasn't sure at first, but on a day when "my" child was absent I peeked into the other classroom and there he was, his other 50% attendance.

I was angry, not so much at the fraud, but at the fact that the child had been taught to lie and had been put at risk. When I asked him what his real name was, he didn't know. He said he had two names and they were both his. He seemed confused and unsure, though he wasn't afraid of me, because I was as non-threatening as possible. It wasn't his fault.

Even though I said nothing about it, the state auditors found the fraudlent claim and denied both families welfare support. They went from being poor to being destitute. The children were put into foster care and I never saw him again. I've often wondered what happened to him.

Should I have said something to the "mothers" right away? Had I known that there could be such dire repercussions, I think I would have.

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