You can qualify for a free government cell phone by participating in a number of federal government aid programs. But the way most people qualify is by receiving food stamps (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP).
On our “Do You Qualify?” page we said, “There are a few rules and restrictions to the Lifeline phone service, and while not everyone qualifies for this free phone from the government, if you’ve got financial problems you most likely are eligible.” Check out the whole page for yourself.
Turns out we completely underestimated just how easy it is to qualify for a free government cell phone because we completely underestimated how easy it is to qualify for the food stamp program.
Rob Undersander, a wily Minnesota retiree, has clearly demonstrated that the eligibility rules for SNAP are are so lax that anyone — even millionaires — can qualify for the program. How does he know millionaires are eligible? Because he has a million dollars in the bank and has been legally receiving food stamps for a full year.
A few years ago Undersander had one of those moments of clarity that had never before been experienced by anyone else. Although millions of low-income Americans and tens of thousands of bureaucrats had pored over the rules and regulations of the SNAP program for decades, no one else had ever noticed that low income was the only bar you needed to hurdle to receive benefits from the food stamp program. Simply stated, no one gave a rat’s ass how much you had in the bank as long as your annual income was low.
Here’s how FreeBeacon.com explained it:
A retired engineer with a seven-figure nest egg but no real income, Undersander decided to perform an experiment to determine if someone as well-off as he and his wife could obtain the benefits.
“I’ve got the [SNAP] form in my hand and I’m thinking of my financial situation, and I said ‘you know, I just can’t believe this,'” Undersander told the Washington Free Beacon by phone earlier this week. “So I went down to the second floor of the Sterns County Courthouse, stood in line a little bit, handed in the application and three weeks later I’m getting food stamps, a balance on my EBT card.”
Although he was not invited to formally testify, Undersander was in attendance at a Thursday subcommittee meeting designed to look at “broad-based categorical eligibility” for benefits like SNAP.
Undersander maintains he did not falsify any portion of his application, and that therefore everything he did was completely legal. He says he also carefully tracked and donated all of the monies he received from the program back into his community to benefit the needy.
House Democrats, however, were not happy.
“And let me just also say for the record, I think if someone intentionally defrauds the federal government, they ought to go to jail,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts.
Was Undersander guilty of defrauding the food stamp program? He followed all the rules and did it intentionally to expose the absurd flaw in the system.
“When I filled out that form, I used an abundance of honesty and caution,” Undersander said. “I was honestly hoping it would be denied.”
Unfortunately, Minnesota is not the only state that tests income, but not assets, in order to determine food stamp eligibility. It is thought that 33 other states have similar tests.
As you might expect, opinions of Undersander’s actions widely varied.
Some politicians insist that he followed the program’s rules, so he can’t be accused of fraud. Others say he intentionally defrauded the government and should pay a steep price.
Every single day we receive dozens of emails and comments from readers who desperately need access to, but cannot get, free government cell phones. Their stories are heartbreaking and we are forced to tell them that there is nothing we can do to help them.
So in this case, we agree with the Republicans who insist that eligibility requirements must be tightened in order to reduce fraud and abuse and to get resources to those who are in such great need of assistance.
Our bottom line:
Give Undersander a standing ovation and a hero’s parade. He brought attention to a glaring problem that left wing politicians would rather ignore. The tighter they make the food stamp regulations, the less fraud and abuse the program will suffer. And if there is less fraud and abuse in the food stamp program, there will be less fraud and abuse in the Lifeline free government cell phone program.
Tighten up the rules, reduce fraud, increase the number of truly needy American who get free government cell phones.
It ain’t rocket science.