Screening and Assessment in TANF\Welfare-to-Work: Ten Important Questions TANF Agencies and Their Partners Should Consider. Is Gaming the System a Problem?


A few states we spoke to said that in designing and implementing screening and assessment programs and services some state legislators or system observers expressed concern about whether welfare clients would "game the system." That is, clients would respond incorrectly or dishonestly to screening and assessment questions to achieve a result desired by the client but often inconsistent with the objective of the policy. In Tennessee, fears about clients gaming the system to forestall work was briefly raised but was not enough of a concern to prevent them from going ahead with implementation. A more extreme example, and certainly an atypical one, came from two Utah senators who argued against a bill extending welfare for domestic violence victims claiming the bill would open up a new form of welfare fraud.85

While each of these examples indicates a concern about screening and assessment initiatives, we did not speak to any states where fears about recipients gaming the system stopped or slowed implementation. However, it raises an important point that states must periodically review their policies and procedures and monitor clients receiving services to ensure that those recipients who need help are getting it and those who do not are not using the system to prolong their TANF receipt.

85  State Capitals Newsletters 2000.

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