Our compassion for those in need should not be a license for some to steal.
Yet, that is occurring within the food stamp system as recent stories out of Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., show.
While the vast majority of food aid assistance goes to people with justifiable need, we have no tolerance for those who scam the system for their own gain.
Last week, PA Independent reported that the state Department of Public Welfare found 653 people living out of state were collecting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, more commonly known as food stamps, from Pennsylvania.
Those 653 people were poised to collect $927,000 in benefits in the next six months.
Auditor General Jack Wagner told the Tribune-Review he expects the problem is worse because the Department of Public Welfare's initial investigation only covered those collecting benefits in states that don't border Pennsylvania.
An audit for one month of 2011 found more than $5 million was paid to out-of-state businesses using Pennsylvania-issued welfare debit cards. Most of those payments went to adjoining states.
Not all of those charges may be improper. It might be more convenient for a someone living close to the border to shop in another state. Still, these charges deserve scrutiny.
A public welfare spokesman said the agency plans to look at bordering states next.
Meanwhile, the federal government is warning of fraud involving people selling their benefit cards and then asking for replacement cards. The fraud is costing taxpayers an estimated $750 million a year, The Associated Press said.
The federal government requires states to issue replacement cards when recipients claim their cards were lost or stolen.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing to give states more power to demand a formal explanation from those who repeatedly claim to have lost their benefit cards more than three times a year.
More than 46 million Americans, nearly half of them children, receive food stamp benefits averaging $132 a month, AP reports.
We think someone who loses a benefit card more than once, or at most twice, a year should be checked. If benefit cards are being lost more often than that, it could be a sign the person has a bigger problem and might need a guardian for his or her own protection.
People who qualify for food stamps under the rules should get them.
But those who defraud the system should be removed immediately from receiving future benefits and prosecuted when appropriate.
Our compassion doesn't extend to someone taking money from our pockets by bamboozling the system.