DEAR ABBY: Thank you, thank you, for publishing the letter from "Ticked Off in Topeka, Kan." (April 18) concerning welfare fraud, including Section 8 housing fraud. I am an investigator for a housing authority, and our agency is dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the program and protecting the taxpayer dollars entrusted to us. Not a day goes by that I don't hear, "I don't want to get anyone in trouble, but ..."
Please let your readers know that if they call in with a fraud tip, they are not the ones who are getting anyone in trouble. The people who decided to commit the fraud or do the crime got themselves in trouble. The only way we can help the most people with our limited resources is by eliminating fraud and applying the rules and regulations fairly and equitably for everyone.
Quite often it is neighbors, friends and family members who are our eyes and ears. It is important that they let us know when someone is defrauding the system. No one will lose assistance just because of a tip. We investigate every case and, if proven, the tenants are given an opportunity to appeal and to have a hearing. There are too many families on the waiting list and too many people who need help for fraud to go unreported. -- INVESTIGATOR IN OKLAHOMA CITY
DEAR INVESTIGATOR: I hope "Ticked Off" will take your advice -- and mine -- and report this "friend" to the proper authorities. Many readers voiced their frustration, while others offered helpful suggestions. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: This makes me so mad! My family struggles each and every month with no public assistance. Abby, I don't want to be rich or live in a palace. I just want to go to bed each night knowing my kids' bellies are full and that they have a roof over their heads when the next night comes. We live on macaroni and cheese and ramen noodles, not steak and lobster. If this "friend" is committing fraud, I say report her, because if you are working and paying taxes into the welfare account, she's cheating you, too. -- KEEPING IT REAL IN KISSIMMEE
DEAR ABBY: Way to go, Abby! Americans need to stop overlooking the dishonesty they encounter. Thank you for encouraging "Ticked Off" to take a stand. -- G.M., MONTROSE, COLO.
DEAR ABBY: Please let "Ticked Off" know that if her friend is receiving Section 8 subsidies, her actions may be a federal offense. As a former attorney for a housing authority, I used to receive numerous tips from third parties regarding fraud. If she is concerned, she should contact the local housing authority and ask to speak with the investigations department. A tip may be made anonymously.
There is more at stake here than just her conscience. If a housing authority loses its funding, many innocent families and children suffer needlessly. She should do the right thing and speak up. -- A READER IN N.J.
DEAR ABBY: I have worked for the Section 8 program administered by the state of Michigan for more than 20 years. This federally funded program is intended for the aid of the elderly, disabled individuals and low-income families. A thief who steals from Section 8 is also stealing from those in our society who most desperately need our help. Complaints of fraud should be submitted to HUD by calling the toll-free number: (800) 347-3735. -- ALSO TICKED OFF, LANSING, MICH.