AFSCME Council 18

HSD/ISD Employees Push Back and Take Stand for New Mexico People

AFSCME Council 18 News

*update May 13, 2016

"It's ALL coming from Santa Fe" That was the testimony that rang out loud and clear from Judge Garza's U.S District Court today in Las Cruces as State Employees, one after another, testified under oath that the Human Services Department is directing people to violate federal law by denying Medicaid and Food Assistance to New Mexico People in need.

97! That is the number times Deputy Secretary of Child Support Laura Galindo, Income Support Division Director Marilynn Martinez, and ISD County Director Emily Floyd invoked the 5th amendment to avoid self incrimination when asked questions regarding several alleged violations of Federal Law around the failure to deliver medicaid and food assitance. 

Full Update Later...

AFSCME Council 18 News
*updated May 12, 2016

Las Cruces, NM - New Mexico's public safety-net systems continue to flounder under the Governor Martinez Administration. Evidence is mounting that deliberate and not accidental neglect by administration officials is to blame.

In an April 8 column New Mexico Behavioral Health Suspension Was 'A Manufactured Crisis,' U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich calls for a Federal investigation into what led to the false accusations of 15 behavioral health service providers.

AFSCME couldn't agree more, the Martinez administration needs higher level oversight at several agencies, and behavioral health is only the tip of the iceberg.

On Friday, May 13, during a U.S. Federal District Court hearing in Las Cruces, the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty will finish laying out a case that the Human Services Department (HSD) needs a federal monitor. A Federal monitor's oversight will ensure there is no funny business taking place when hungry people apply for medical or food assistance.

AFSCME Income Support Division employees have stepped forward to blow the whistle and testify to ongoing and inappropriate practices that violate federal law and are resulting in people being wrongly kicked-off the roles for Medicaid or denied expedited food assistance.

The testimony is being heard as part of a federal case requesting the appointment of an expert to oversee certain divisions of HSD to ensure the State of New Mexico is exercising due diligence in its efforts to abide by the 1991 Federal Court order to bring basic processing of medical and food assistance benefits into compliance with federal law.

The allegations, which are arising from every corner of the state, say that high-level administration officials are directing lower level management to falsify application information to make New Mexico's numbers look favorable to avoid Federal scrutiny.

"There is a lot of fear and intimidation discouraging employees to testify about the questionable inner workings of New Mexico's Medicaid and food assistance programs," said Chris Armijo, AFSCME staff representative. "But that hasn't stopped all of our Family Assistance Analysts (FAAs) from doing the righteous thing by stepping forward and testifying in Federal Court."

On the heels of the April 28, 2016, Court hearing, the Human Services Department announced their own Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation. AFSCME had concerns over the OIG investigation, believing it would only lead to further intimidation. In fact, the inspector general has been conducting unbiased and fair interviews with HSD employees. In addition to the Inspector General's investigation, the State Auditor Keller also announced his office would conduct a separate and independent investigation into the allegations.

On April 28, 2016, five Human Service Department / Income Support Division employees testified in United States District Court to the truth about what is happening inside the SNAP and Medicaid application process.

What came out in testimony? (see below for more details)

    • ISD employees are directed by high level Martinez administration officials to falsify assets of people applying for expedited food stamps.

    • Hearing ends after High level Martinez administration deputy director goes to consult attorney on whether or not to invoke 5th Amendment against self-incrimination

Even though these five brave AFSCME state employees -- including a line-manager -- are under federal subpoena and have whistleblower protection, AFSCME has serious concerns about retaliation.

That is why AFSCME sought more ISD employees to stand up and testify following the April 28 hearing. Earlier in April, AFSCME sent a letter to the USDA that oversees the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) asking them to investigate what was happening in New Mexico.

Read AFSCME Letter to USDA asking for an investigation of ISD HERE

An email response from Bill Ludwig, Regional Administrator of the USDA Southwest Region confirmed that they were aware of the issues and the court case and the USDA has planned in the near future management evaluations of the program.

Recent Media Coverage:

KOB-TV Ch4 Whistleblower speaks out about food stamp fraud

NM Political Report Employees say HSD asked them to falsify SNAP applications

Santa Fe New Mexican State workers admit fudging numbers to deny food aid to poor

AFSCME is encouraging ISD workers to speak out, either through the Court under federal whistleblower protections,with the HSD inspector general, or the State Auditor's investigation. By standing up together, and now, AFSCME believes whistleblowers are better protected from retaliation, and the people of New Mexico who desperately need food and medical assistance benefits will be better taken care of and respected.

Sworn testimony detailed the following practices are occurring at income support division field offices across the state:

A. Intentional Manipulation of client assets during the ASPEN income support application process with express intent to affect the expedite certification approval system,
B. Management at several levels of authority are directing employees, either verbally or in writing, to manipulate client assets in order to make application processing appear timely

Much more came out in testimony detailing how the State practices and policy are in violation of Federal law. These practices are robbing poor, senior, and low income working people of SNAP and medicaid benefits.

*AFSCME will update this story with details from the May 13, 2016 Court hearing.

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