Tags: Exclusive Interviews | obamaphone | lifeline | cellphone | abuse | fraud

Journalist to Newsmax: 'Obamaphone' Program Filled With Abuse

By Bill Hoffmann   |   Friday, 02 Aug 2013 06:20 PM

A journalist who was given three so-called "Obamaphones," meant for impoverished Americans as part of the federal Lifeline program, says cellphone companies are making a fortune off a giveaway rife with fraud.

"What I find scandalous is I'm not eligible [under the guidelines]. … You're supposed to either be on welfare or earn what's less than 136 percent of the poverty level," Jillian Melchior, a National Review columnist, told David Nelson, guest host of "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"I can support a family of eight on my income … [but] it was easy for me to get not one phone, but three."

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Melchior decided to probe Lifeline after she heard stories of fraud and abuse associated with the program, which allows the underprivileged to have a way of communicating.

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She said she was approached by various Lifeline vendors who barely checked out her eligibility. Even when she told them she was not on welfare, they still qualified her.

"They'd say, are you on welfare? I'm not on welfare, and based on my income level, I don't qualify for this program. So I tell them that, I say 'I'm not on welfare but I'd sure like to be, who wouldn't?'" she said.

"And that was enough to get them to sign me up and I was able to get three Obama phones in the mail. … You're only supposed to have one cellphone per household."

Melchior believes the huge profits that phone-service providers get from the program make the companies less stringent in checking on the recipients of the phones.

"For each person that gets signed up, phone providers get about $10 a month, per customer. That's a lot of money, that adds up fast," she said.

"The problems began when the federal government got in the cellphone business, and when the cellphone business supposedly got into the business of verifying who's on welfare and who's not. That's not the job of either of them. It's not really surprising that we have problems," she said.

Melchior takes issue with the program for claiming the phone giveaways are welfare for the poor.

"It really is corporate welfare. Big corporations are benefiting from this. Meanwhile, taxpayers are funding it and they're suffering," she said.

"It's a program that was created to benefit the poor but has gotten totally out of control."

Editor's Note: Should ObamaCare Be Repealed? Vote in Urgent National Poll

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