RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Employment Commission is under a judge’s order to process its nearly 100,000 unaddressed benefit claims by Labor Day.
In a court filing this week, the VEC said it has only 23,000 claims remaining.
However, a 68-year-old unemployed psychiatric technician said that this information from the VEC doesn't help her. With no benefits for the last ten weeks, she's homeless and cutting back on her medications.
"Since I haven't received anything from unemployment, I'm homeless now,” said Ms. Jackson, who was laid off by the hospital where she worked in mid-May, and who asked us not to use her full name or put her on camera. “I can't afford my medication. And I've been calling and asking to see if I can get in touch with someone."
She says her repeated attempts over ten weeks to get answers from the VEC about her benefits have met only with frustration. And she's getting desperate.
"So now, I'm staying with my cousin and I can't continue to stay with her because it’s just not right,” Jackson said. “I’m not able to give her anything for staying here, because I don't have anything to give her."
Jackson says it was a minor miracle when she succeeded in setting up a scheduled phone appointment with the VEC. But that hope turned quickly to confounding despair when the VEC employee who reached out to her could not actually say or do anything to help her.
“At the end of the conversation with the person that I spoke to on the phone, I really felt sorry for her, because she was put in a position to call people, knowing that she can't help them or give them any type of information,” said Jackson.
Jackson's reaction may seem charitable under the circumstances because she says she knows well the stress claimants are under.
"People have a tendency to get a little irate about the whole situation,” she said. “And a lot of us are upset that we're not receiving anything. Because we have worked for it, you know, we're not asking you just give us something free. It’s something that we have worked for and paid into."
With her finances and health in peril, Jackson says it seems no one is accountable at the VEC.
I asked her what her message would be to VEC Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess.
“Well, Miss Hess, I'm a grandmother,” Jackson said. “So I'm a senior citizen. At this stage of my life, I have no security whatsoever. I don't know when I will receive anything from you guys, because you won't help me. I'm not taking my medication. So my health is not the greatest right now. I’m a little scared, and I'm a little frightened, and it's something that I think you need to consider. I'm quite sure I'm not the only senior citizen out here that doesn't have a place to stay, and then can't get their medication.”
Let's hope Commissioner Hess is paying attention. You may recall when we asked Gov. Northam directly about talking to Hess, he would not commit to making the VEC chief, whom he re-appointed, available.
As for Jackson’s case, because VEC media contact Joyce Fogg does not have a working office phone, we sent her multiple emails about the hospital tech’s case. She did not respond.