• Tag Archives Wisconsin
  • Former South Dakota Food Stamp Admin Implicated in Wisconsin, Virginia SNAP Abuse

    Hey, Kristi! You know all those fears you like to fan about fraud in food stamps? Well, the feds have found fourteen million dollars’ worth of food stamp fraud… committed not by food stamp recipients but by corrupt state officials in Virginia and Wisconsin following the direction of a former South Dakota official turned consultant. Here’s the Department of Justice’s statement on the “improper and biased quality control practices” that it says Julie Osnes instructed the Virginia Department of Social Services to use to falsely claim $7.1 million in food stamp administration bonuses:

    As part of the settlement, VDSS admitted that, beginning in 2010, it retained Julie Osnes Consulting, a quality control consultant, to reduce its SNAP benefits determination error rate by training VDSS quality control workers to “use whatever means necessary” to find a benefits decision “correct” rather than finding an error. VDSS also admitted that if its quality control staff “could not find a way to make a benefits decision correct,” they were instructed to “find a reason to ‘drop’ the case, or eliminate it from the sample.” VDSS acknowledged that this outcome-driven method, as implemented by VDSS between 2010 and 2015, “injected bias into the case review process” because it was designed to lower VDSS’s reported error rate by falsely reporting errors as “correct” or eliminating them from the sample. Through its use of these biased methods, VDSS was improperly awarded USDA performance bonuses for 2011, 2012, and 2013.

    VDSS further admitted that VDSS quality control workers did not want to use the methods proposed by Julie Osnes Consulting because they believed the methods lacked integrity, injected bias into the quality control process, and violated USDA requirements, and that they communicated these concerns to their supervisors. VDSS admitted that the former VDSS quality control manager pressured and intimidated these employees to force them to adopt these methods, including, according to these employees, threatening termination, providing negative performance reviews, taking away teleworking and flexible scheduling privileges, and engaging in other forms of harassment and retaliation.

    As part of the settlement, VDSS and the United States also agreed that VDSS had taken certain corrective actions beginning in 2015, including terminating its use of the improper quality controls methods devised by Julie Osnes Consulting [“Virginia Department of Social Services Agrees to Pay $7.1 Million to Resolve Alleged False Claims for SNAP Funds,” U.S. Department of Justice, 2017.04.10].

    DOJ offers a similar account of Osnes-guided food stamp monkeyshines in the Wisconsin Department of Health Services:

    As part of the settlement, WDHS admitted that, beginning in 2008, it utilized the services of Julie Osnes Consulting, a quality control consultant, to review the error cases identified by WDHS quality control workers. WDHS further admitted that based on instructions from Julie Osnes Consulting it implemented several improper and biased quality control practices, including: (1) finding a basis for dropping error cases from the review by discouraging beneficiaries from cooperating with information requests and pursuing unnecessary information; (2) selectively applying requirements and policies to overturn and reduce errors; (3) asking beneficiaries leading questions to obtain desired answers to eliminate error potential; (4) arbitrating any and all differences with USDA; (5) subjecting error cases to additional scrutiny and quality control casework with the goal of overturning an error or dropping a case; and (6) omitting verifying information in documents made available to USDA. These practices improperly decreased WDHS’s reported error rate, and as a result, WDHS earned performance bonuses for 2009, 2010, and 2011 to which it was not entitled [“Wisconsin Department of Health Services Agrees to Pay Nearly $7 Million to Resolve Alleged False Claims for SNAP Funds,” U.S. Department of Justice, 2017.04.13].

    Julie Osnes? Who’s that? We could try to find out from her consulting firm website… but KELO’s Angela Kennecke called her yesterday and prompted her to scrub her online content. You can read that bio on the Internet Archive; here’s a similar bio Osnes put up online under another business venture of hers, RightManual.com:

    Julie Osnes
    Julie Osnes

    Julie Osnes is the CEO of RightManual.  The company was founded after identifying a need to create effective manuals that policy workers were able to use to assist in carrying out their duties in a cost effective manner.  Julie previously founded Julie Osnes Consulting, LLC in October 2007 after selling her interests in The Rushmore Group, LLC. Osnes retained SNAP QC consulting services at the time of separation. Ms. Osnes was a Member in Rushmore for 7 years (May 2000-October 2007) following over twenty years of state experience administering the SNAP Program for the South Dakota Department of Social Services. During this time, the South Dakota Food Stamp Program consistently maintained a high accuracy rate (exceeding 95 percent) that led to 16 consecutive years of enhanced funding from the federal government. Her considerable benefit delivery knowledge and management skills led Governor William Janklow to appoint her to lead his welfare reform initiative in 1996. This experience required her to form discussion committees, schedule focus groups, and ultimately develop and deliver the State’s TANF program to the legislature – a project of major scope and importance. In recognition of her national leadership role for the Food Stamp Program, Ms. Osnes was the recipient of the 2000 Leadership Award presented by the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA). Ms. Osnes was president of the American Association of Food Stamp Directors for five years and served on APHSA’s Board of Directors for four years. Her efforts providing QC consulting services with documented results is reason enough to apply her methods and experiences to QC issues facing other states. Julie Osnes is now sole proprietor of Julie Osnes Consulting, LLC, a company established to provide SNAP QC consulting services [jturincs, “Julie,” RightManual.com, 2016.12.11].

    The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stopped the shady practices in 2011. However, Osnes appears to have kept her contract with the state of Wisconsin:

    Julie Osnes Consulting was paid $429,000 for its work in 2009, records show. That was 15% of the total performance bonus for low error rates awarded that year to the agency, according to [WDHS spokeswoman Julie] Lund.

    The consultant was paid $100,004 in subsequent years. The contract was terminated in 2015, Lund said [Don Behm, “Wisconsin Pays $7 Million Penalty to Federal Government for False Food Share Claims,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2017.04.13].

    Osnes contracted with the state of Virginia from 2010 to 2012. There’s no published word on whether Wisconsin and Virginia will try to make Osnes pay back her cut of the improper bonuses those states earned.

    States where Julie Osnes Consulting held contracts for food stamp work, archived from JulieOsnesConsulting.com 2015.02.20.
    States where Julie Osnes Consulting held contracts for food stamp work, archived from JulieOsnesConsulting.com 2015.02.20.

    Osnes’s website used to list the following states where her services had secured high performance bonuses for food stamp programs:

    FY 2013 Food Stamp High Performance Bonus

    96% of the total 2013 bonus pool of thirty million dollars went to the following states that currently partner or have partnered with Julie Osnes::

    • Alaska – Lowest Payment Error Rate& Lowest CAPER – $482,032
    • New Jersey – Lowest Payment Error Rate – $1,637,797
    • Virginia – Lowest Payment Error Rate – $1,723,956
    • Florida – Lowest Payment Error Rate – $7,015,422
    • Mississippi – Lowest Payment Error Rate – $1,185,054
    • South Carolina – Most Improved CAPER – $1,687,834
    • Iowa – Lowest CAPER – $856,340
    • Missouri – Most Improved Payment Error Rate – $1,656,202
    • Texas – Lowest Payment Error Rate – $6,056,493
    • Tennessee – Lowest Payment Error Rate & Most Improved CAPER – $5,078,969
    • Louisiana – Lowest Payment Error Rate – $1,614,241

    FY 2012 Food Stamp High Performance Bonus

    75% of the total 2012 bonus pool of thirty million dollars went to the following states that currently partner or have partnered with Julie Osnes:

    • Alaska – Lowest Payment Error Rate & Lowest Case & Procedural Error Rate – $ 710,531
    • Alabama – Lowest Payment Error Rate – $1,897,845
    • Wisconsin – Lowest Payment Error Rate – $1,842,047
    • Florida – Lowest Payment Error Rate – $8,072,238
    • Virginia – Lowest Payment Error Rate – $2,020,886
    • South Carolina – Lowest Payment Error Rate – $1,892,369
    • Mississippi – Lowest Case & Procedural Error Rate – $2,793,953
    • Maine – Lowest Case & Procedural Error Rate – $ 1,291,604
    • Louisiana – Lowest Payment Error Rate – $1,945,592

    FY 2011 Food Stamp High Performance Bonus

    71% of the total 2011 bonus pool of thirty million dollars went to the following states that currently partner or have partnered with Julie Osnes:

    • Alaska – Top 7 Positive Error Rate & Lowest Negative Error Rate – $ 562,113
    • Delaware – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $435,208
    • Georgia – Most improved Negative Error Rate – $3,975,869
    • Wisconsin – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $2,106,427
    • Florida – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $9,087,687
    • Virginia – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $2,303,828
    • South Carolina – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $2,217,828
    • Maine – Lowest Negative Error Rate – $719,248

    FY 2010 Food Stamp High Performance Bonus

    77% of the total 2010 bonus pool of thirty million dollars went to the following states that currently partner or have partnered with Julie Osnes:

    • District of Columbia – Most improved Negative Error Rate – $347,086
    • Michigan – Most improved Negative Error Rate – $3, 338,653
    • Nebraska – Top Negative Error Rate – $363,960
    • Delaware – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $320,503
    • Alaska – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $232,898
    • Indiana – Top 7 (& most improved) Positive Error Rate – $1,618,569
    • Georgia – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $3,076,511
    • Wisconsin – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $1,484,019
    • Florida – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $6,083,577

    FY 2009 Food Stamp High Performance Bonus

    71% of the total 2009 bonus pool of thirty million dollars went to the following states that currently partner or have partnered with Julie Osnes:

    • Maine – Top 7 Positive and Top 4 Negative Error Rates – $1,328,261
    • Delaware – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $407,494
    • Georgia – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $4,187,866
    • Wisconsin – Top 7 Positive and Most Improved Negative Error Rates – $2,861,791
    • Nebraska – Top 7 Positive and Top Negative Error Rates – $850,986
    • Florida – Top Positive and Most Improved Negative Error Rates – $11,552,247

    FY 2008 SNAP Program High Performance Bonuses

    48% of the total 2008 bonus pool of thirty million dollars went to the following states that currently partner or have partnered with Julie Osnes:

    • Delaware – Most Improved Positive – $408,606
    • Florida – Highest Accuracy Positive – $7,179,612
    • Georgia – Highest Accuracy Positive – $4,062,236
    • Colorado – Most Improved Negative – $1,454,277
    • Nebraska – Highest Accuracy in both Positive and Negatives – $1,339,060

    FY 2007 Food Stamp Program High Performance Bonuses

    • Nebraska – Top 7 for Positive and Top 4 for Negative error rates – $1,023,369
    • Pennsylvania – Top 7 Positive – $4,644,234
    • Missouri – Top 7 Positive – $2,662,498
    • Florida – Most Improved Positive – $5,481,910
    • Alabama – Top 4 negative – $1,715,161

    FY 2006 Food Stamp Program High Performance Bonuses

    • Missouri – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $3,234,784
    • Nebraska – Top 4 Negative Error Rate- $466,639
    • Pennsylvania – Top 4 Negative Error Rate – $3,651,458

    FY 2005 Food Stamp Program High Performance Bonuses

    • Alabama – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $4,336,006
    • Nebraska – Top 4 Negative Error Rate – $1,063,944

    FY 2004 Food Stamp Program High Performance Bonuses

    • Utah – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $561,367
    • Pennsylvania – Top 7 Error Rate – $5,010,200
    • Colorado – Most Improved Positive Error Rate – $1,202,150

    FY 2003 Food Stamp Program High Performance Bonuses

    • California – Most Improved Positive Error Rate – $6,819,955
      • QC services were partnered with counties and not the state. Counties included Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Fresno, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Tulare & Orange [from JulieOsnesConsulting.com, archived 2015.02.20].

    There’s no word on whether DOJ has found evidence of improper food stamp performance bonuses in any of these other states where Osnes’s firm provided services.

    Osnes’s lawyer, Jamie Damon of Pierre, tells KELO-TV (and anyone else who will listen that the DOJ is “slandering” his sterling-souled client to cover up the feds’ own failings:

    JOC is a well-respected company and with a great reputation.  FNS and DOJ have set out to destroy this reputation by civil proceedings which I, as JOC counsel believes were meant to shield USDA & FNS from further embarrassment as the result of the 10/15 OIG Report.

    JOC offers advice.  States are free to use JOC’s advice in any manner they see fit and JOC does not sign off on completed cases.  The only thing JOC can be certain of is that instructions were not given that would have resulted in a State going outside of USDA established standards & procedures.

    As an aside I have known Julie Osnes for many, many years.  She is a person of the highest integrity.  Her business dealings reflect that.   She does not advocate “taking any means necessary” but rather consistently advises states to follow federal regulations and not step beyond them.  JOC cannot speak for state management practices since her work never dealt with a state’s employee performance.  JOC dealt with interpretation of federal regulations and how to apply them to cases under review [Jamie Damon, statement to KELO-TV, 2017.04.17].

    If the DOJ settlements against Wisconsin and Virginia do redound to the detriment of Osnes’s consulting business, she and her husband Douglas can fall back on farming. They just filed new farm incorporation papers this winter for their 160 acres north of Pierre. If the DOJ’s characterization of her consulting is true, Julie Osnes may find growing food a healthy change from helping government agencies treat federal food assistance as a cash crop.

    Related Reading: Todd Epp views Osnes’s alleged participation in this state government food stamp scam as part of a pattern of South Dakota officials using their government experience to improperly cash in (think EB-5 and GEAR UP). “South Dakotans are no better than anyone else,” writes an angry Epp. “We are also subject to the Seven Deadly sins, with greed being chief among them, particularly if you are an alumni of the state’s Republican one party rule.”

  • Courts Ding Wisconsin, Texas Voter-ID Laws

    Voting rights just got two victories this week. Yesterday, a federal Judge Lynn Adelman ruled that Wisconsin must allow voters who don’t have photo IDs to sign an affidavit to receive a ballot and vote:

    Nine percent of registered voters in Wisconsin, 9 percent of the electorate, lacked a government-issued ID when the law was passed. “Although most voters in Wisconsin either possess qualifying ID or can easily obtain one, a safety net is needed for those voters who cannot obtain qualifying ID with reasonable effort,” wrote Judge Lynn Adelman. “Because there are likely thousands of eligible voters in Wisconsin who lack qualifying ID, it is virtually self-evident that some of them will either need to exercise extraordinary effort to obtain qualifying ID or be unable to obtain ID no matter how hard they try” [Ari Berman, “9 Percent of the Wisconsin Electorate Just Got Their Right to Vote Back,” The Nation, 2016.07.19].

    Down South, a federal court has ruled that Texas’s voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against minority voters:

    A federal appeals court has ruled that a Texas voter ID law has a discriminatory effect on minority voters, and has ordered a lower court to devise a remedy before the November elections.

    A district court had found not only that the law discriminated, but that it was intentionally designed to do so. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals saw some flaws in that conclusion, and instructed the lower court to reconsider that element of the case and rule again — preferably after Election Day [Camila Domonoske, “U.S. Appeals Court Finds Texas Voter ID Law Discriminates Against Minority Voters,” NPR News: The Two-Way, 2016.07.20].

    The 5th Circuit found that the types of ID considered valid for voting under Texas law—”a state driver’s license or ID card, a concealed handgun license, a U.S. passport, a military ID card, or a U.S citizenship certificate with a photo“—tend to favor white voters. The court agreed with the plaintiffs that excluding IDs like state employee and university photo IDs is more likely to exclude minority voters.

    Neither of these rulings appears to imperil South Dakota’s voter ID requirement. SDCL 12-18-6.1 requires that voters present one of the following forms of identification:

    1. A South Dakota driver’s license or nondriver identification card;
    2. A passport or an identification card, including a picture, issued by an agency of the United States government;
    3. A tribal identification card, including a picture; or
    4. A current student identification card, including a picture, issued by a high school or an accredited institution of higher education, including a university, college, or technical school, located within the State of South Dakota [SDCL 12-18-6.1].

    Our acceptance of tribal photo IDs and student IDs appears to mitigate the concerns about minority-voter access that lost the case for Texas. Plus, SDCL 12-18-6.2 allows us to sign an affidavit instead of presenting a photo ID (and I always do!). We thus comply with the Wisconsin judge’s order for an alternative.

    Of course, Libertarian-minded readers might prefer to look at it from the other direction: no one has demonstrated that voter fraud is a sufficiently large (or even existent) problem to justify the state’s restriction of citizens’ right to vote. The Voting Rights Act actually did more to get rid of voter fraud than any of the modern restrictions Republicans have imposed to suppress minority votes. We could get rid of voter ID requirements altogether, see fewer voters discouraged from voting, and incur no significant harm of voter fraud.

  • Dayton’s Democratic Policies Deliver for Minnesota; Walker’s Republican Policies Weigh Down Wisconsin

    Governor Mark Dayton, Minnesota, and Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin
    Governor Mark Dayton, Minnesota, and Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin

    Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is not running for President (and that’s o.k.—we’ve got Bernie, and that’s plenty for me!). But it would be fun and instructive to pit the Minnesota Democrat against his Wisconsin counterpart Scott Walker, who is seeking the Republican Presidential nomination. What have their parties’ policies done for their states?

    Dayton and Walker both took office on January 3, 2011. Both tackled their state’s fiscal and economic problems with divergent policy responses that seem to epitomize their parties’ priorities. Democrat Dayton raised taxes on the rich, targeted tax cuts on the working class, and raised the minimum wage. Republican Scott Walker cut taxes on the rich and cut spending on public education and working-class benefits.

    As those policies have had time to work, numerous writers have noticed that Minnesota is beating Wisconcin. Madison advocate Jimmy Anderson saw his state’s economy declining in October 2014:

    The results have been lackluster at best. Wisconsin job growth has ranked at or near the bottom of the Midwest, personal income growth has been last in the Midwest and 44th nationally, and the budget is in shambles.

    …The truth is we are falling behind. Our transportation budget has a $750 million hole in it, our healthcare budget is $760 million in the red, and that’s all on top of a $1.8 billion general budget deficit. Add it up and Walker has essentially taken a balanced budget and turned it into a deficit nearly as large as the one created by the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression [Jimmy Anderson, “Scott Walker Has Failed Wisconsin, and Minnesota Is the Proof,” Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Purple Wisconsin, 2014.10.22].

    …while Minnesota is chugging along quite healthily:

    In fact, during Walker’s tenure, Minnesota has blown Wisconsin out of the water when it comes to job growth. From March 2011 to March 2014, Minnesota has created 20,000 more jobs than Wisconsin. And the gap is widening even faster with Minnesota creating 14,000 more jobs than Wisconsin since only July of this year. Minnesota’s unemployment rate, at 4.5%, is actually lower than it was before the recession and is currently a full point lower than Wisconsin’s.

    And it’s not only jobs; the numbers also show that Minnesota outpaces Wisconsin when it comes to wages and personal income growth. Just looking at manufacturing jobs, the most recent numbers show Minnesotans making $600 more per month, with wage growth over the past year more than doubling Wisconsin’s [Anderson, 2014.10.22].

    While Walker has to distract voters with fears of ISIS, Dayton gets to use his investment to make Minnesota better:

    While Walker spends time running for president and making ill-advised comparisons between fighting organized labor and battling the Islamic State group, Dayton is busy thinking about how to invest in the ordinary people who make up Minnesota’s economy.

    Dayton began his second term in January and is already gunning to take advantage of his budget surplus. His new budget plan aims to boost spending on education from kindergarten through college, and he’s angling to invest in public transit, paid sick time for workers and child care tax credits for middle-class families, according to Mother Jones. History suggests the investments will pay off [Zeeshan Aleem, “2 Years After Raising Taxes on the Rich, Here’s the Hellscape Minnesota Has Become,” Policy.Mic, 2015.03.02].

    Wisconsin had lower income taxes than Minnesota before 2011; Walker’s and Dayton’s divergent policies have increased the difference. But Wisconsin still relies heavily on property tax, just like South Dakota. And thanks to that property tax, most Wisconsinites are paying a greater share of their income to Madison than they would if they lived in Minnesota.

    And you know, Dayton isn’t even beating up Minnesota’s rich that badly to make these good things happen. Joe Loveland of Minnesota’s Wry Wing Politics produces this remarkable graph of state and local tax burdens on each decile of Minnesota’s taxpayers in 2012 and 2017:

    Joe Loveland, "About That 'Soaking' of Minnesota's Rich," Wry Wing Politics, 2015.08.26
    Joe Loveland, “About That ‘Soaking’ of Minnesota’s Rich,” Wry Wing Politics, 2015.08.26

    Minnesota’s top 10% are the only decile seeing an uptick in their total state and local tax burden (and remember, they are the group best positioned to take advantage of deducting state and local taxes from their federal income tax). But even their whisker-bigger burden will remain a couple whiskers lower than most other groups. And notice that Minnesota’s bottom 10% will still bear more than double the burden of all other Minnesotans, rich and middle.

    The point here is that Dayton isn’t squeezing his fellow millionaires all that hard, probably not hard enough to make them flee Walker’s tax-cutting Wisconsin or no-income-tax South Dakota, but just enough to boost Minnesota’s budget and economy. Dayton’s Democratic policies leave the rich content, while benefiting everyone else.

    Meanwhile in Wisconsin, Walker’s Republican policies do the opposite: the rich cheer paying less income tax, but the fiscal impacts drag all of Wisconsin down.

    Dayton’s not running for President, but voters, you have to ask: would you like a Democrat to do for America what Dayton’s policies have done for Minnesota, or would you like a Republican like Walker to throw the same gum in the policy works that are dragging Wisconsin down?

  • Radical Republican Leaves “Plutocratic” Wisconsin Party

    John Tsitrian spotlighted former Republican legislator Jerry Apa’s critique of the South Dakota GOP last week. Apa’s declaration that the SDGOP’s arrogant leaders are out of touch with Republican principles and the people of South Dakota sounds like the farewell letter Michael S. Murphy writes to the Republican Party of Wisconsin:

    I can no longer champion elected “representatives” who speak like Republicans, but then vote in their respective committees and legislatures completely opposite to their promised campaign rhetoric.  I can no longer abide by and support individuals who I feel are sub-standard conservatives, simply for the “good of the Party”.  I shall not contain my opinions when I witness damaging and hypocritical votes or stances that our elected officials make that go directly counter to the Republican Party’s Platform and Resolutions which are implemented by my fellow delegates. It has been my opinion for quite sometime now, that the Republican Party has morphed into a conservative wing of the Democrat Party. This I can no longer accept.

    Since having served on executive boards of every State Party level during my time with the RPW (Branch, County, District, and State Exec. Committee), it has been a harsh reality for me to observe, and now affirm, that this State Party is controlled by only a few select plutocratic or politically powerful individuals.  What was once thought of as a Party, I have found is actually an oligarchy.  I can no longer stomach the top-down direction and orchestration conducted by those few select individuals, many times without the knowledge of the general Party delegation, and a few times, unbeknownst to even Members of the RPW’s Executive Committee [Michael S. Murphy, “Why I Am Leaving the Republican Party of Wisconsin,” Liberty Wisconsin, 2015.03.24]. 

    Scott Walker’s party may be better off without a John Bircher who advocates secession and nullification. But I always enjoy hearing right-wingers use the word “plutocratic” and recognize that our common enemy is Big Money.