Unemployed Vietnam veteran, helped by CBS6 viewers, may finally get help from VEC

Posted at 8:14 PM, Jul 02, 2021

RICHMOND, Va. -- You may remember Ken Cook, whose story we brought you last month.

Back then, when I asked him if he could speak to Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess on the Virginia Employment Commission, what would he tell her, colorfully responded, "Answer the damn phone! Get somebody that wants to actually work and get paid!"

The Vietnam veteran's months-long frustration with the VEC had long since reached a boiling point. But his story touched a lot of viewers, one of whom set up a GoFundme account that raised over a thousand dollars.

Cook needed the money for food and to keep the roof over his head.

"It really helped me out. I was broke,” Cook said. “I didn't have two nickels to rub together and these people really, really helped me out. I have thanked him repeatedly on the GoFundMe site."

A grateful Cook said he was not looking for charity; he just wanted the VEC to do its job.

Then earlier this week came a breakthrough: Cook said the much-derided callback option on the VEC phone system actually worked and that he spoke to someone who actually had the ability to help him.

"I had 1,174 people in front of me at eight o'clock in the morning,” said Cook. “And they got [back] to me by two o'clock in the afternoon. And so we got it all straightened out. I'm going to have a meeting with the deputy, and we're going to review it all, but the woman said that she's pretty hopeful. They're pretty sure I'm going to get everything straightened out, and I'll get all my back pay for May."

Cook says he trusts that the thousands of dollars that the VEC said he was owed going back to last year will come through with no more stress-induced visits to the hospital to have his pacemaker fixed.

"Oh Lord, it's going to mean, I can get caught up with all my bills and my mortgage,” he said. “Because I'm a month behind on my mortgage and I'm going to use the GoFundMe to pay for my mortgage."

If the VEC does follow through, Cook says he now has a different message for the embattled agency.

"You're doing stuff that you should have done a year ago but you're doing it now,” said Cook. “And, you know, I give it two thumbs up right now, you're doing a really good job."

We’ll definitely follow up after the holiday weekend and post an update here.