FreeGovernmentCellPhones.net is not a political website. Far from it. We try to avoid taking positions that can even be interpreted as political. But as the nation’s leading advocates of the free government cell phone program, we can no longer remain silent about the blatant fraud that plagues the program.
We’ve often written about fraud on the part of Lifeline Assistance customers, but in this case we’re talking about fraud on the part of the companies that provide the phones to consumers.
United States Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri (we won’t identify her political party because her political affiliation is far less important to us than her message) recently lambasted two Lifeline companies accused of fraud while grilling Federal Communication Committee nominee Michael O’Rielly during his confirmation hearings.
McCaskill asked O’Rielly if he thought that companies guilty of fraud should be allowed to participate in the Lifeline program. O’Rielly gave the politically correct answer that action should be taken and that the FCC should begin a “top-to-bottom review” of the program.
“Lifeline has got to be one of the most fraud-infested programs ever conceived in the federal government,” McCaskill insisted. “The goal here is wonderful, and I support it- but this program was flawed from its inception in terms of oversight.”
We throw our full support behind McCaskill’s efforts to reform the program, but urge her to reconsider any efforts to end the program.
Let’s briefly review some recent reports of fraud on the part of Lifeline companies: According to news reports some Lifeline vendors are so unscrupulous that they enroll people in the program without their approval. Unfortunately, it appears that instead of being isolated incidents, these efforts are the official policy of some companies. And that’s just the tip of the iceburg. There have also been numerous news reports of cell phones being handed out willy nilly outside welfare offices and from vans parked along the streets in low income neighborhoods.
When confronted by these accusations, O’Rielly again responded with weasel words. Instead of firmly denouncing the companies and clearly stating that they should be barred from participating in the Lifeline Assistance program, he said barring them should be “considered”. He acknowledged the elephant in the room by saying, “Problems still do exist in Lifeline program.”
Really, Commissioner O’Rielly? Really? Is that the best you can come up with in response to blatant fraud that threatens to destroy this valuable (some would even say “absolutely necessary”) program?
We’re not alone in being shocked by O’Rielly’s answer. Senator McCaskill almost blew a McGasket.
“As an Auditor, something that really offends me is that the FCC prohibits companies from maintaining records for eligibility,” she said.
This is not McCaskill’s first attempt to reform the Lifeline free government cell phone progam. Last year she demanded that the FCC provide detailed information on the program. She asked the Commission for copies of all agreements between the FCC and the companies that provide Lifeline services.
While we fully support McCaskill’s efforts to reform the Lifeline Assistance, we do not support her efforts to end the program.
Let’s not throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, Senator McCaskill. Stick to your guns and demand that the FCC reform the free government cell phone program, but do not end it. Don’t lump the cheats together with the millions of needy Americans (including many of your own constituents) who rely on this program to get jobs, to stay in touch with their children and parents, and to make contact with medical professionals. Restore the integrity of the program, but don’t destroy it.
Reform, Senator McCaskill, reform.