Problem SolversProblem Solvers Investigations

Actions

After waiting months for VEC benefits, laid-off worker thinks fraud may be to blame

Virginia Unemployment Commission
Posted at 8:09 PM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 23:25:25-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Employment Commission recently told a judge it had cleared a backlog of nearly 100,000 claims and asked that a lawsuit against the VEC be dropped.

Judge Henry Hudson has not yet ruled.

But you may recall that last week, Sandra Sims told us that her case was still far from resolved and that she still has no way that she’s found to contact the VEC.

She even filed a police report alleging fraud.

Now her daughter tells us she hasn't received benefits since early April and she, too, thinks fraud may be the reason why.

“Just like my mom, I'm trying to make contact with any and everyone, every day, and I can't get through,” said laid-off insurance worker Timesha Sims. She says she’s been stretched thin since her unemployment benefits abruptly stopped nearly five months ago.

“So my last payment was March 31, but I didn't speak with anyone about it until April 27,” said Sims. “And when I questioned why I haven't been getting payments for four weeks, the guy said that ‘I see all your payments went through.’”

So where did those four weeks of benefits go?

“But that wasn't my account,” Sims said. “In his words, he said, ‘Oh, so you were one of the ones that got hijacked, too.’”

That belated revelation of stolen benefits has started a process that Sims says has become a circular torment, requiring her to start over again and again and always sending the same documents to the VEC.

“A bunch of stuff that was asked for on that day, I faxed over, and then waited for weeks, even another month, but I still hear nothing,” Sims said. “I’ve got nothing in the mail. So I’m finally able to make an appointment and I speak to someone again. And they asked me for the same information. They didn't have it, of course.”

At the urging of several Facebook groups that Sims is a part of, she contacted her state delegate. She says she eventually got a call from the VEC, but the result was all too familiar.

“I got this number that asks you when you call, that you put in your social and then it tells you that your case has either been completed or ‘we have not instructed you to call,’” said Sims. “It's been two weeks now that I've had the same message.”

Sims says she’s aware of the VEC claims in a recent filing that it has fulfilled a judge’s order in a lawsuit. She says she’s not buying it.

“They’re saying that they've settled 90,000 cases since the lawsuit was brought. I don't see how,” said Sims. “There’s so many people still not getting paid, and they don't know why.”

I asked her what her would message be if she could speak to VEC Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess.

“Help us! I mean, you tell us the way! We can't ‘tell’ our bills away,” Sims said. “I've been waiting for this long time, barely making it. I mean, really put some thought into it. There's a lot of people that need help. I'm in three different unemployment self-help groups on Facebook and there's so many people not getting paid.”

We have asked repeatedly over many months to speak to VEC Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess. When I asked Governor Ralph Northam, he would not commit to making Hess, whom he appointed to run the VEC, available.