Illinois Claims Elderly Woman Owes $769 in Food Stamp Over Payment From 1985

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COLONA, Illinois -- An elderly woman is in the middle of a battle with the state of Illinois.

The state claims they gave her too much money in food stamps 32 years ago and now she needs to pay back hundreds of dollars.

Lola Shaw, 85, was sent the notice last month. It mentions the date her payment was supposedly past due from August 12, 1985. The letter came after an audit by the Illinois Department of Human Services.

The woman's daughter, Dawn Berry, says her mother never even received food stamps from the state.

“I thought for sure it was a scam. This was our first notice. We’ve never gotten anything prior to this,” claims Dawn.

The letter sent to Lola Shaw, says an amount of $769.00 had not been paid from food stamps back in 1985.

“She doesn't have the money to pay for this in the first place and doesn't even know if she got these food stamps. I was living with her at the time because I was going to college and I don't remember ever receiving any food stamps,” added Dawn.

Dawn takes care of her mother, Lola, who is ill and on a fixed income.

“She’s got medical bills, it's really sad. She makes maybe $11,000 a year,” says Dawn.

Dawn is helping her mother flight the claim but the process isn't easy.

“They can go ahead and start taking action and start taking out of her social security and hurt my dad’s pension in the meantime while we are fighting this,” says Dawn.

Illinois Department of Human Services says federal and state laws require that Illinois never stop attempting to collect the over payments.

“It’s really sad the state is so hard up for money that they are coming after our sick and elderly people,” says Dawn.

Until both parties get down to the bottom of the claim, Dawn and Lola are told to be patient.

“It’s kind of hard for someone who is living with her means that she has and doesn't have money for medication to be patient,” says Dawn.

Illinois Department of Human Services says there is no statute of limitations when it comes to collecting over payments and cannot comment on individual cases.

SNAP and TANF are federal programs and therefore DHS is required by federal mandate to collect debt. DHS does not have discretion to forgive old debts.

On Background:
IDHS maintains records all the way back to the mid 1970’s and continuously attempts to collect debt per Federal mandate. IDHS follows both Federal and State regulations for the collection of debt.

Overpayment means that a beneficiary collected more than he or she was entitled to collect.  DHS provides benefits based on the information that beneficiaries provide.  While DHS strives to verify as much information as possible before awarding benefits, we have to balance verification against the urgent need for our customers to receive benefits.  When customers provide inaccurate information, or fail to update information as their circumstances change, and they collect more than they are entitled to collect, federal rules require the state to seek repayment.

The Debt Collection Act requires the use of private collection agencies and the State offsets through the Office of the Comptroller.  We are also required to utilize the Federal Government for offsetting of Federal payments and the Illinois Attorney General for civil judgments, agreed orders, wage garnishment and bankruptcy exceptions.