Texas' mistake forces elderly widow to live on $2 a day

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by JASON WHITELY

WFAA

Posted on February 12, 2013 at 12:09 PM

GARLAND — Despite a bare pantry and nearly empty refrigerator, Darla LeMay was always reluctant to accept food stamps.

"I just wanted to be responsible and not depend on anyone else, but I couldn't, because we just didn't have enough food," the 70-year-old widow said.

When her husband Len died in 2011, LeMay lost half of his Social Security benefits, and she had no choice but to apply for the Lone Star Card.

"I just work real hard not to bottom out the checking account, so at the end of the month I'm not overdrawn anywhere," she added. "It takes every dime!"

Mrs. LeMay initially qualified for $62 in food stamps. But last year the state increased her benefit to $367 a month.

Last week, she got a worrisome letter in the mail.

"They told me they made a mistake, but they never said, 'And since we've made a mistake, you're going to pay it back!'" LeMay said.

The state's Department of Health and Human Services said it overpaid her by $2,715 during 2012. If she can't pay back that sum, the state told her she'll just receive less money for food.

The state told News 8 this is a rare mistake. Its staff should have only given her a one-time extra payment because of medical bills she had to pay, but instead it mistakenly processed it as a recurring payment and didn't catch the problem for a year.

LeMay's son, Joe Siragusa, had been caring for his mom, but said he'll have to leave her side to find a job since the state reduced the elderly widow's food stamps to $57 a month — less than $2 a day — and refuses to eat its own mistake.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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