HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- When IT worker Tyrone Jackson was laid off last spring, a very long wait for the Virginia Employment Commission to act on his claim began.
“While I'm waiting on the VEC, I'm constantly going to my savings.”
From the start, the Henrico man knew there was a problem because after he filed, he heard nothing for several weeks.
“So then I went back in, and immediately was forced to submit another claim,” Jackson said. “So two claims at that time, to my knowledge. So I'm just thinking the other one will wash away, and they’ll pick up the claim that was refiled and we'll just go from there. That happens and I'm able to file my claims weekly without any problems logging in each week and getting a confirmation.”
Jackson, 37, says he diligently did that from April until early August when his account suddenly had a "Your Benefits Have Expired" notice. However, these benefits had never been received.
It seems someone had filed in his name in March, the month before Jackson was laid off.
He was then required to send in another batch of ID documents and asked to file an appeal, a fraud claim and a new claim altogether. That is essentially starting over in so many ways.
“They have my ID.me [information],” Jackson said. “They have my documentation as far as my birth, social and ID.me. But still, no payment, still no update, nothing.”
While he was worried that he might have hurt his case with all the refiling he had to do, he says he was assured that with a new system coming online in November, all would be rectified.
“I'm calling back, like I'm calling back daily at this point, even sometimes on the hour, the same day, and I'm getting various information,” Jackson said. “I'm getting representatives who will hang up on you, or representatives that will say, I can't help you. I'm even finding out information like, ‘Hey, we're not even with the VEC. We're contractors. So we only have so much information.’”
But despite his daily efforts, the false - or fraudulent - information in his file remained.
“Somehow I was born in 1958,” he said, shaking his head. “[Apparently] I also worked for the Sushi King in Norfolk, Virginia. Except that I've never had residency in the 757 area code.”
Jackson says he checked in immediately when the VEC's new portal went live in November and says he was able to do so, even though his wrong date of birth was still there.
He says he can see all the weekly claims he's filed since then, but now, a full nine months since his ordeal through the VEC bureaucracy began, his frustration has reached a whole new level.
“It seems like there's a super lack of empathy,” said Jackson. “There's lack of accountability and transparency overall. You're being told different things every time you call, and there's no consistency among all the information that's being provided. And it's a waiting game. You have to wait, you have to wait. You have to wait. Well, I imagine there are individuals out there who are on the brink of losing their homes, who have daycare and childcare to pay for, or who need an active cell phone to look for work.”
Jackson says with such terrible customer service, the VEC wouldn't last a minute as a private business.
“Simple issues like verifying your date of birth, your identity, giving clear, concise information consistently? That needs to happen,” said Jackson. “That has to happen. Because if you call your bank, you call, let's say, a Walmart or Amazon, or whomever, and you have a customer service gripe, they’re going to get to the bottom of your problem and try to resolve it within that same day, and if not, within 48 hours. For some reason, the VEC lacks that.”
He says a little humility could go a long way.
“Just be transparent with your claims,” he said. “Tell us, ‘Hey, we screwed up. We're sorry. We're going to resolve this for you. Oh, it's just your date of birth? Hold on. Let me get somebody on the line that can fix this.’”
He says he wonders whether the revamped computer system is up to the current challenge.
“I get that the systems are old,” Jackson said. “I've worked for the Commonwealth before. So I get it. I've seen it. ‘Oh, these systems are dated as hell, where are we?’ Because why? Why is it 2022, and I'm still faxing you information? Why am I not emailing from an encrypted service? Makes no sense.”
A spokeswoman for the VEC responded immediately this week when CBS 6 asked about Jackson’s case.
Joyce Fogg said she could not discuss the specifics of his case but that someone would call him. The next day she emailed to say his case was resolved and to check with him.
So I did. Jackson said as of late Friday, he still cannot log on, nor can he get through by phone.
CBS 6 will be sure to follow up with him.