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New Jersey - Looking Ahead, Lakewood Vaad Hopes To Help Residents Navigate Confusion Of Public Assistance Programs To Prevent Inadvertent Abuses

Published on: June 29, 2017 06:00 PM
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Lakewood, NJ - As rumors swirl about more impending arrests in Lakewood, the Lakewood Vaad is hoping to take concrete steps to help the community through a crisis that has made national headlines and has had many local area residents living in fear.

Seven couple have been arrested for fraudulently taking advantage of public assistance benefits.  As previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2u3VyEI), dozens of people have since called the Ocean County Social Services offices to discontinue their benefits or to revise the income information that they had previously reported in the wake of the recent arrests.

A statement released by the Lakewood Vaad expressed sadness at the arrests, noting that dishonesty and deliberately bending the rules to qualify for public assistance cannot be excused.

Rabbi Moshe Zev Weissberg of the Lakewood Vaad said that despite media reports,  there is no “criminal conspiracy” or “culture of fraud” in Lakewood.

A significant number of Lakewood residents have sacrificed material comforts in order to be able to live their chosen lifestyle and legally qualify as either low income or working poor, observed Rabbi Weissberg.  While many are eligible for government benefits, they come with a sea of rules and qualifications that can be exceptionally hard to understand.

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“The programs themselves are not particularly customer service friendly and you feel like you are on line at motor vehicles,” Rabbi Weissberg told VIN News.

“People in the community and askanim don’t have the knowledge to answer questions that come up.  Each program has its own Shulchan Aruch and very often answers that you get from representatives are contradictory.  If a grandparent pays a granchild’s tuition, is that reportable income? Are Chanukah gifts from a bubby and zaidy reportable income?”

This week’s arrests have been extremely painful to many, including Rabbi Weissberg.

“Skirting the law is not okay,” said Rabbi Weissberg.  “As a community we need to do better.”

The Lakewood Vaad hopes to be implementing several approaches in the near future to clarify the particulars of public assistance programs so that no area residents inadvertently make mistakes that create legal troubles for them down the road. 

Rabbi Weissberg said that the vaad hopes to partner with local government.

“We need to have people on the local level who can answer questions, so that those who need these programs can get real answers in a non-threatening environment,” said Rabbi Weissberg.  “We also hope to be able to provide expertise on a community level to deal with these issues in the future.”

Rabbi Weissberg was quick to note that the Lakewood Vaad’s efforts to prevent problems in the future is not at attempt to justify any possible wrongdoing that may have occurred and that it is important that those who qualify for benefits and are in need continue in the programs.

“If people who really need help and are scared off from applying for help that would be a disaster,” said Rabbi Weissberg.



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Read Comments (29)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jun 29, 2017 at 06:10 PM Wannashmooze Says:

A culture of fraud has existed for many years. Saying that the higher ups in the community are not condoning this vast fraud is simply a lie.
Not all families are involved but the numbers are enough that it can be considered an entrenched part of the lakewood culture.

Trying to hide behind the complexities of the rules is laughable. Do you mean to tell me that a city of gemarakups can't figure out the rules!?! This is the same group of people who are purportedly smarter than anyone else because of their vast talmudic knowledge.
I invite any VIN commenters to disagree but you know deep down that this is true. Stealing from the government is not ok.

3

 Jun 29, 2017 at 06:21 PM Anonymous Says:

According to Wikipedia:
Welfare fraud is the act of illegally useing state welfare systems by knowingly withholding or giving information to obtain more funds than would otherwise be allocated.

Obtaining reliable evidence of welfare fraud is notoriously difficult.[1][2] Official figures of the prevalence of welfare fraud based on government investigation tend to be low – a few percent of the total amount of welfare spending. Interviews with welfare recipients where the interviewer has succeeded to gain a high level of trust, on the other hand, have shown that many, if not most, fail to report incomes.[3][4] Likewise, a survey of the general population has found that more than 80% are prepared to cheat on welfare if the risk of audit is only 1/6.[1] In most cases, welfare fraud involves modest sums and is committed by people who struggle with poverty, but once started it often continues after reaching financial stability.[5][6]

There is no excuse for folks taking benefits unlawfully- we ought to be scrupulously honest as the am hanivchar, but it does give some perspective to a problem that appears to be widespread and is not specific to Lakewood...

4

 Jun 29, 2017 at 06:30 PM Anonymous Says:

At the final Agudah Convention in his lifetime, Rav Pam ZTL, gave a passionate and profound speech regarding how Mosdos and erliche yiden in general should behave regarding Government Programs. A public address from the Lakewood Roshei Yeshiva given in response Rav Pam's position gives a wonderful insight into these current events.

5

 Jun 29, 2017 at 06:31 PM chaimyankel Says:

come on give me a break...all of a sudden Lakewood people dont understand the rules and guidelines of FRAUD....please read the indictment and see this is NOT people who don't understand what they were doing.
Its wake up time for a Community whose philosophy is Learning Torah and someone else should support them. You have girls in ages of 23-32 years old and can not get married because the girls father dosent have enough $$$ to promise to keep them learning for 10 years. So the parents promise and then they default and have to turn to Genyveh ,Gezyle from others.
Hashem is not very proud with such a system.

6

 Jun 29, 2017 at 06:31 PM Mike41 Says:

Oh please!!! Not one person in Lakewood
Was arrested this week because they didn't
Report Chanukah gifts from Zaidy & Bubby
Or because of tuition. So the vaad shouldn't
Make it sound like they are iniciont.

7

 Jun 29, 2017 at 06:37 PM judith Says:

Now if officials in New York were as brave, there would be tons more arrests

8

 Jun 29, 2017 at 06:42 PM georgeg Says:

I am not from that U.S. and don't really know what "section 8" is, but Wikipedia states that "The main Section 8 program involves the voucher program ... or "tenant-based", where the tenant is free to choose a unit in the private sector."

So it occurs to that maybe the homes are, for example, bought by the parents (meaning the parents of those on section 8) who let the (adult) children live there in exchange for the vouchers and the minimal required rent? Nothing in Wikipedia tells me the rent cannot be paid to a relative.

9

 Jun 29, 2017 at 06:43 PM Educate Archie Says:

Joe Coronato:

Mafia

10

 Jun 29, 2017 at 06:45 PM happypappy Says:

Reply to #1  
Wannashmooze Says:

A culture of fraud has existed for many years. Saying that the higher ups in the community are not condoning this vast fraud is simply a lie.
Not all families are involved but the numbers are enough that it can be considered an entrenched part of the lakewood culture.

Trying to hide behind the complexities of the rules is laughable. Do you mean to tell me that a city of gemarakups can't figure out the rules!?! This is the same group of people who are purportedly smarter than anyone else because of their vast talmudic knowledge.
I invite any VIN commenters to disagree but you know deep down that this is true. Stealing from the government is not ok.

Excellent post. Inadvertent abuse? Yeah right.
It has always come from the top.

11

 Jun 29, 2017 at 06:48 PM BH_Baby Says:

NATO is obsolete. The US must quit.
Without NATO, you don't have Coronato.
Say it ain't true, Joe.

12

 Jun 29, 2017 at 07:37 PM Applestein Says:

It's not only Lakewood. I have relatives in Flatbush and Boro Park that pride themselves on getting away with this stuff

14

 Jun 29, 2017 at 08:22 PM yonasonw Says:

We are supposed to be stupid enough to believe that the Vaad had no inkling of the problem until now? Really.

15

 Jun 29, 2017 at 08:59 PM lipa21 Says:

that's not true - most people in lakewood can't afford their tuitions, their grocery bills, their daycamp fees, etc without the gov't help.
it's the bigshots who control the gov't funding to yeshivos who don't pass it on the the consumer

16

 Jun 29, 2017 at 09:30 PM yaakov1122 Says:

Sorry mister.
Joe Coronato is going to prison for corruption.
see court files:
pdf-archive.com/2017/06/30/steven-mecka-vs-ocean-county

17

 Jun 29, 2017 at 09:34 PM sane Says:

Well lets start with this:
If you make over a mil a year, you likely are not entitled to Medicaid. That may come as a surprise to some.

18

 Jun 29, 2017 at 10:51 PM yonasonw Says:

We are supposed to be stupid enough to believe that the Vaad had no inkling of the problem until now? Really.

19

 Jun 29, 2017 at 10:51 PM ercsd Says:

"no area residents inadvertently make mistakes"-give me a break. There weren't any inadvertent mistakes. They people knew exactly what they were doing. They were lying, cheating and stealing.

20

 Jun 29, 2017 at 11:12 PM Dr. E Says:

If they are looking "ahead", what about the high schools in Lakewood that openly defy the law and don't have secular studies? In fact, they and some Roshei Yeshiva are quite proud of that. Besides that obvious (implicit endorsement of a) violation of dinei d'malchusa, this of course eventually fuels a vicious cycle of the emerging generation of adults not having the abilities, skills, and degrees to get gainful employment, which will shield them from the Yetzer Horah of playing shtick.

So, the cheating the government is merely a symptom not the cause.

21

 Jun 30, 2017 at 08:05 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

According to Wikipedia:
Welfare fraud is the act of illegally useing state welfare systems by knowingly withholding or giving information to obtain more funds than would otherwise be allocated.

Obtaining reliable evidence of welfare fraud is notoriously difficult.[1][2] Official figures of the prevalence of welfare fraud based on government investigation tend to be low – a few percent of the total amount of welfare spending. Interviews with welfare recipients where the interviewer has succeeded to gain a high level of trust, on the other hand, have shown that many, if not most, fail to report incomes.[3][4] Likewise, a survey of the general population has found that more than 80% are prepared to cheat on welfare if the risk of audit is only 1/6.[1] In most cases, welfare fraud involves modest sums and is committed by people who struggle with poverty, but once started it often continues after reaching financial stability.[5][6]

There is no excuse for folks taking benefits unlawfully- we ought to be scrupulously honest as the am hanivchar, but it does give some perspective to a problem that appears to be widespread and is not specific to Lakewood...

Able bodied young people should not be taking these benefits because it only leads to more fraud.

22

 Jun 30, 2017 at 08:33 AM Knowitall Says:

It ought to be simple. If after you have a 6 bedroom house five full bathrooms with marble tile a kitchen with 2 sub zeros and two Wolf ovens two dishwashers granite counters 2 leased cars 4 $5,000 shaitels designer sunglasses , pocketbook and shoes, Miami vacations,you are tight on cash, you are entitled to Medicaid.

23

 Jun 30, 2017 at 08:47 AM Talmudist Says:

Reply to #1  
Wannashmooze Says:

A culture of fraud has existed for many years. Saying that the higher ups in the community are not condoning this vast fraud is simply a lie.
Not all families are involved but the numbers are enough that it can be considered an entrenched part of the lakewood culture.

Trying to hide behind the complexities of the rules is laughable. Do you mean to tell me that a city of gemarakups can't figure out the rules!?! This is the same group of people who are purportedly smarter than anyone else because of their vast talmudic knowledge.
I invite any VIN commenters to disagree but you know deep down that this is true. Stealing from the government is not ok.

Truly sickening and a major Chillul Shem Shamayim...
I saw one comment that the Lakewood community will now engage in a comprehensive educational program.
Assuming that this is true and not just a public relations move..... It is proof positive that their chinuch approach is an abysmal failure.
Talmidim learn 12 years in yeshiva.... Plus additional five or more in beis medresh.
I assume they learn BABA KAMA , METZIAH , BASRA .... yet they DON'T KNOW that gezel is wrong?

24

 Jun 30, 2017 at 09:29 AM ohvei Says:

The biggest culture of Fraud is the Vaad.
They are involved in putting in their people in the local office,they are putting in their people in the zooming,then they are getting all the kickbacks.
It's a big culture of fraud !!!!!!!

25

 Jun 30, 2017 at 09:46 AM Dr. E Says:

Reply to #23  
Talmudist Says:

Truly sickening and a major Chillul Shem Shamayim...
I saw one comment that the Lakewood community will now engage in a comprehensive educational program.
Assuming that this is true and not just a public relations move..... It is proof positive that their chinuch approach is an abysmal failure.
Talmidim learn 12 years in yeshiva.... Plus additional five or more in beis medresh.
I assume they learn BABA KAMA , METZIAH , BASRA .... yet they DON'T KNOW that gezel is wrong?

It's ALL about public relations and damage control. It's happening already with press releases and radio appearances. Every few years there is a scandal, and there is some "awareness" campaign in the form of speeches at the Agudah Convention and other educational programs like shiurim on business ethics. But if fraud is so ingrained in the system, there is a prevalent "we vs. them" attitude, the fraudsters are thrown under the bus as the "minority" of bad apples, and the existing economic model cannot be sustained, there will be no substantive change.

It's easy to criticize the behavior. But what core systemic changes are being made to the system in terms of education and job readiness so that people can eventually live an adult life of yashrus?

26

 Jun 30, 2017 at 10:02 AM chaimyankel Says:

Reply to #8  
georgeg Says:

I am not from that U.S. and don't really know what "section 8" is, but Wikipedia states that "The main Section 8 program involves the voucher program ... or "tenant-based", where the tenant is free to choose a unit in the private sector."

So it occurs to that maybe the homes are, for example, bought by the parents (meaning the parents of those on section 8) who let the (adult) children live there in exchange for the vouchers and the minimal required rent? Nothing in Wikipedia tells me the rent cannot be paid to a relative.

Ok u njust said u are not from USA and don't know what section 8 means and now u know it all.
The section 8 guidelines doesn't allow family members being a tenant in a home owned by his parents or in law. The govt. know well that every parent can buy a home for their kids and let their child collect the rent from Uncle sam.(by the way in the usa uncle sam is the government).
the problem here is not the section 8 , if u read the indictment its the millions they made on the side and collected all those funding.
its like someone crying poverty and paying zero tuition and the yeshkiva finds out that his father left him 3 apartment buildings in a LLC ,how would the parents feel, the same uncle sam looks at it.

27

 Jun 30, 2017 at 12:09 PM ohvei Says:

The biggest culture of Fraud is the Vaad.
They are involved in putting in their people in the local office,they are putting in their people in the zooming,then they are getting all the kickbacks.
It's a big culture of fraud !!!!!!!

28

 Jun 30, 2017 at 12:42 PM Educated Archy Says:

Reply to #9  
Educate Archie Says:

Joe Coronato:

Mafia

Please stop your nonsense. Its annoying and babiesh. Whats your point?

29

 Jun 30, 2017 at 01:59 PM MyThreeCents Says:

I never was eligible for Medicaid or food stamps, but, we couldn't make ends meet, pay tuition, send our kids to camp, have cleaning help etc. We lived frugally, paid our mortgage and utilities on time and had some help from a family member. All we got was HEAP and WE did not cheat the government. But, we did owe our kids schools a lot of money for which we were hounded mercilessly.

30

 Jun 30, 2017 at 02:08 PM Ina Says:

Chazer fissel! And, Eisav wanted to know how to tithe straw!

No you do not have to report gifts of Chanukah gelt and tuition assistance from Bubby and Zeidy as income for they are gifts. Bubby and Zeidy need to report them as gifts beyond the annual gift giving exclusion!

Sorry, but there is something so wrong with this town and their inhabitants.

31

 Jun 30, 2017 at 03:34 PM DavidCohen Says:

Aha, yeah, right.

And those stores on 13th Ave in Boro Park that let you pay cash to avoid sales tax, yes, that's just not understanding the complex rules.

And the Section 8 apartments in Crown Heights that then get rented out, that too, such complicated program rules.

And using SNAP payment cards for ineligible purchases in Lakewood grocery stores, I know, such a long list of rules.

Here's an idea. How about you stop justifying breaking the law and violating halacha at the same time!

32

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