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Guest column/West Virginia is attacking fraud on all fronts

No matter what form fraud takes, we at the West Virginia Attorney General’s office are dedicated to protecting taxpayers and their money.

Our work to root out consumer, disability and Medicaid fraud will soon surpass $410 million since 2013. That number exceeds $1 billion when you factor in our efforts to enforce the tobacco settlement and preserve funding for the state and its political subdivisions.

That puts real dollars back into the pockets of West Virginians.

Our victories provide restitution and debt cancellation for victims, millions to improve high-speed internet access, monies to fight the scourge of prescription opioid abuse, as well as funding to protect those on Social Security and Medicaid.

It likewise includes many millions in payments to the state, which helps ease the tax burden on all taxpayers.

Our dedicated staff also works to fight deceptive business practices through awareness, mediation and, when necessary, vigorous litigation and enforcement.

The fight against unlawful practices typically begins when an individual consumer files a written complaint. Complaint forms can be mailed, accessed online at www.wvago.gov or picked up by visiting any of our mobile office locations throughout the state.

Mediators work with the individual or business in question, and if the complaint is not resolved by mediation alone, remaining cases are forwarded to a staff attorney for review.

While our staff cannot act as a consumer’s private attorney, our lawyers enforce consumer protection laws in representing the State of West Virginia.

To this end, since 2013, the Consumer Protection Division has generated more than $374.35 million in value to the Mountain State.

That includes $37.3 million in canceled debt for consumers, along with broadband expansion and other in-kind compensation valued at more than $166.5 million.

But fighting fraud does not end with stopping a dishonest business or scam. It also extends to blocking those who defraud government programs.

For instance, our partnership with the Social Security Administration roots out disability fraud by investigating suspicious or questionable claims. It has generated more than $23.06 million in projected savings for the state and federal governments since coming to West Virginia in 2015.

The disability unit’s hard work helps examiners make informed decisions and ensure payment accuracy while also equipping state and federal prosecutors with the facts needed to secure a conviction.

In 2019, our good work in fighting disability fraud led state lawmakers to move the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to the Attorney General’s Office, bringing West Virginia in line with 46 other states.

In just a short period of time, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has recovered nearly $12.3 million, with more successes on the horizon.

The work of these two entities protects disability and Medicaid benefits for those who actually need them and helps keep state and federal aid programs from wasting time and money on fraudulent claims.

The money saved additionally helps ensure continued medical care for hard-working yet low-income families who truly require the assistance.

Every dollar counts.

If something seems amiss, don’t hesitate to contact our office.

Our main consumer protection hotline — 800-368-8808 — is open and ready to assist.

Those looking to report disability fraud can call 800-269-0271. To report Medicaid fraud, people should call 888-372-8398.

Together we can keep up our fight against fraud of any kind, strengthen our devotion to protecting consumers and help West Virginia reach her full potential.

(Patrick Morrisey is the Attorney General of West Virginia.)

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