Patrick administration says it is on track to reduce waste, fraud in welfare benefits

The Patrick administration, which has been under fire for not doing enough to battle welfare fraud or waste, said today it had made significant progress in making sure benefits only go to those eligible to receive them.

The Department of Transitional Assistance has begun implementing a number of changes, including matching its recipient list with information from other agencies, such as the Registry of Motor Vehicles and Department of Revenue, to make sure benefits do not go to people who have moved out of state or earn too much to qualify, said Interim Commissioner Stacey Monahan.

“We have more work to do, but I’m pleased with our progress,” Monahan said in a statement.

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The agency, which provides cash, food stamps, and other benefits to nearly one in eight Massachusetts families, said it wanted to provide a progress report since it first announced plans to improve the program in March.

State Auditor Suzanne Bump plans to release an audit of the agency as early as next week. The audit is expected to identify some problems, including welfare payments going to people who have died, that could be reduced with better oversight.

Every quarter, the state finds cases of fraud based on tips. In the last three months of 2012 alone, the state auditor’s office found more than 200 cases of fraud costing taxpayers an average of nearly $7,000 each. In many of the cases, people allegedly used false identities or hid income or assets to obtain benefits.

The program has also attracted attention because of the revelation that the family of the Tsarnaev brothers, who were accused of the Boston Marathon terror attacks, received welfare benefits when the brothers were growing up.

The administration of Governor Deval Patrick has refused to comment on whether Ibragim Todashev, the 27-year-old friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev who was shot and killed in Florida on Wednesday in Orlando, Fla., also received state assistance when he lived in Massachusetts.

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