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Direct Certification and Direct Verification


Direct Certification is a technique that allows a school district to identify ... and more than 250 other non public/parochial and other sponsors of the program. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Direct Certification and Direct Verification

Direct Certification and Direct Verification in
Indiana July 24, 2008
John Todd, Assistant Director Office of School
Community Nutrition Indiana Department of
Education (317) 232-0865
Direct Certification
  • Direct Certification is a technique that allows a
    school district to identify those students who
    receive either Food Stamps or TANF cash benefits.
    Any student identified can be Directly
    Certified for a Free Meal benefit. They do not
    have to complete and submit the standard paper
    application for free meals.
  • Schools can typically expect to identify about
    50 of their free eligible students in this way.
    Some districts find many more. Indianapolis
    Public Schools has processed their matches for
    the upcoming school year and downloaded 16,189
    student names. Their most recent May 2008
    reimbursement claim showed a total of 26,200
    total Free Eligible Students. This is almost
    62. Gary Community Schools typically can
    identify 64 or more.
  • This time saving technique is an accurate method
    of determining eligibility, that is convenient
    for parents, and efficient for school
    administrators. While its most important
    contribution is its efficiency, it also
    undoubtedly identifies some students who
    otherwise would not receive the nutritional
    assistance they need and are entitled to.
  • Direct Certification is one method of determining
    eligibility. Other students may be determined to
    be eligible based on their household size and
    household income or other factors. (All students
    not directly certified must receive a copy of the
    paper application.)
  • Since Food Stamp and TANF eligibility criterion
    are similar to the Free Lunch eligibility
    guidelines (130 percent of poverty), all directly
    certified students are Free eligible. There is
    no direct certification for Reduced Price
    Students (185 percent of poverty).

  • Direct Certification has been available in
    Indiana since 1990. We were a very early adopter
    of the technology.
  • From the very beginning we have enjoyed strong
    support from the Indiana Family and Social
    Services Administration (FSSA). FSSA
    administers, Food Stamps, TANF, Medicaid, SCHIP,
    and many other assistance programs. We would
    like to thank them at this time for their

  • During the first years, the process was very
    manual with schools submitting student
    enrollment information by mailing disks of data
    which would be processed. Results were placed on
    disks and mailed (snail mail) back. Very labor
    intensive. In the early years only the 15-25
    largest school corporations participated. (These
    few largest school corporations did of course
    account for an overwhelmingly large percentage of
    Free Eligible students.)

  • We have evolved the process into a web based
    application that is almost totally self-service,
    with results made available for download almost
  • With the 2008-2009 School Year, USDA has for the
    first time made the use of Direct Certification
    manditory for all schools participating in the
    National School Lunch Program. Indiana has
    almost 300 Public School Districts, and more than
    250 other non public/parochial and other sponsors
    of the program.

  • We offer a variety of techniques and tools
    appropriate for a variety of situations and
    school districts of various sizes and levels of
  • While many schools will only conduct the Direct
    Certification process at the beginning of the
    school year (and in doing so meet the mandate),
    We offer a variety of enhancements to encourage
    schools to update their list of students directly
    certified throughout the year.

  • All Direct Certification activities are hosted on
    the Indiana Department of Educations
    Application Center. The Application Center is
    a very secure environment used by schools to
    submit a variety of record types to the state.
  • Since sensitive information is being transferred
    (in both directions), the department takes its
    obligation to safeguard the information very

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We offer two basic methods for schools with
varying levels of experience.
Results can be downloaded in a variety of formats
to accommodate a wide variety of computing
Enhancements allow convenient retrieval of
updated results throughout the year
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  • We utilize algorithms that allow for matching of
    names that are not spelled consistently in School
    Enrollment lists and Food Stamp and TANF rolls
  • Example
  • Laquisha
  • La Quisha
  • LQuisha
  • These names are not exact matches, but would
    meet the test of similar. We use a common
    computer procedure called the Soundex Algorithm.

  • Matches are made based on
  • First Name identical or similar
  • Last Name identical
  • Date of Birth
  • County of Residence and County Issuing Food
  • While Food Stamps/TANF records have SSN numbers,
    schools usually do not collect this information.

Once the list is retrieved, Parents must be
notified and offered the opportunity to reject
the benefit if they wish. It is assumed however,
that they desire the benefit unless the parent
notifies to the contrary. (Opt OUT) This is the
opposite of the paper application (Opt IN).
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  • In addition to the basic Batch Processes of
    downloading whole lists of eligible students, we
    have developed other tools that are appropriate
    for solving individual problems as they are
  • These addition tools allow school officials to
    search for an individual record based on a
    variety of different methods
  • Look up based on
  • Case Number
  • Student Information
  • Parent/Guardian Information
  • These techniques allow schools to fine tune the
    results and handle difficult cases.

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Direct Verification
  • Unlike Direct Certification that takes the place
    of and eliminates the need for the traditional
    paper application for free and reduced-price
    meals, Direct Verification is a technique that is
    available to validate/verify the information
    submitted by the parent when they complete a
    traditional paper application.
  • USDA Regulations require the verification of
    three percent (3) of the applications submitted.
    This verification activity takes place from
    October 1, through November 15 of each school
  • Traditionally, this verification was accomplished
    by mailing a request for information to the
    selected parents/households. Parents were
    requested to submit written records (proof) to
    substantiate the information they put on the
    application. If parents do not comply after
    repeated requests for information, the student
    looses the benefit.
  • Process is difficult and time consuming.

  • Recent regulatory changes by USDA allow for the
    Direct Verification of some selected applications
    without the need to contact the household.
  • To accomplish this, USDA authorized the use of
    Medicaid and SCHIP data in addition to the Food
    Stamp and TANF program data used by Direct
  • Medicaid and SCHIP program information can in
    some cases validate household income levels
    matching those for Free (lt 130 of Poverty) and
    Reduced-Price (185).

  • For the last two years, we have received monthly
    Medicaid and SCHIP data from Indiana Family and
    Social Services Administration, in addition to
    the Food Stamp and TANF information that we have
    received for almost twenty years.
  • The Medicaid data also is used by the Department
    of Education to assist in calculating Medicaid
    Administrative Claiming by School Districts.
  • Unlike Direct Certification which is now
    mandatory, Direct Verification is optional.

  • Direct Certification and Direct Verification used
    together improve the efficiency of eligibility
    determinations in the USDA School Nutrition
  • Direct Certification, as previously mentioned,
    can reduce the number of applications by one-half
    or more.
  • By reducing the number of applications, the
    number of applications that need to be verified
    is reduced, since schools must verify 3 of the
    applications, not 3 of the students eligible for
    free meals.
  • Direct Verification can often then assist in
    verifying somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of
    the selected verification sample.

  • A school such as Indianapolis Public Schools
    might have to verify 300 applications. Many
    smaller districts may verify only 10-30
  • While Direct Verification is in its infancy, it
    is proving to be a useful technique.
  • Where a selected application cannot be Directly
    Verified, the household is then contacted for a
    tradition request for information.

  • Indiana was one of just a few states selected to
    participate in a Pilot Project of Direct
    Verification with Medicaid Data, over the last
    two years. The results of the study have not
    been released yet.
  • Most schools use the look-up methods shown
    below to individually attempt to verify each
    application. The individual look-ups work very
    similarly to the Direct Certification look-ups
    described earlier.
  • We have also developed a batch method that is
    appropriate for the very largest schools that is
    more efficient. It will not be covered today in
    this presentation since it is of limited use.

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  • The existence and usefulness of these techniques
    is based on maintaining a delicate balance
    between acknowledging the limitations imposed by
    HIPPA1, FERPA2, and USDA Confidentially
    Requirements on the one-hand, and the
    desirability of utilizing cross-program
    information in reasonable ways to deliver needed
    services to needy families and children. One
    would hope that these concepts will evolve in
    useful ways in future years allowing better
    delivery of services.
  • 1Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
  • 2Health Insurance Portability and Accountability

Additional Information John Todd, Assistant
Director Office of School and Community Nutrition
Programs Indiana Department of Education jtodd_at_doe (317) 232-0865 Three complete manuals
are available on our Website http//
od/schoolnutrition Direct Certification (rev.
4/2008) Direct Certification-STN
Method-Quickstart Guide (rev. 4/2008) This
manual is a subset of the Direct Certification
manual. Direct Verification (rev. 9/2007) The
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published
a study in August 2006 titled Implementing
Direct Certification States and School
Districts can Help Low-Income Children Get the
Free School Meals for Which They Are Eligible,
by Zöe Neuberger. It can be found at