HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Last week, CBS6 shared the story of a Chesterfield woman, who in January, won her appeal of the benefits she had been denied by the Virginia Employment Commission.
More than three months later, she’s received nothing - not the money the VEC was ordered to pay and perhaps worse, no word from that agency.
Over the last few weeks, I have asked VEC spokeswoman Joyce Fogg repeatedly about why successful appeals are not paid. She has not responded to a single request.
Now a Henrico woman says the same thing is happening to her.
"They said that I was going to have to file an appeal, which I did,” said Anne Atkinson. “And that finally, the appeal time came. This was months and months later, after numerous calls."
Atkinson was receiving unemployment benefits last year when her VEC account was hijacked.
For two weeks, the former executive assistant at a nursing home could not file a claim. Since last March, she has been trying to clear up her account.
On March 3, 2022, an appeals examiner told her and the VEC that she should be paid.
"I got notification in the mail that the ruling had been found in my favor, that they agreed that I could not make a claim because my social security number had been compromised, therefore I should be paid for those two weeks,” Atkinson said.
But as we have heard hundreds of times over the last several years, finding someone at the VEC who can tell you exactly what is going on is nearly impossible.
"Since that time, I have called weekly and I just get the runaround and they apologize and show empathy,” said Atkinson. “But the bottom line is, I've never been paid, and it seems like the right-hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing at the VEC. I get different stories from almost every person I talk to. Sometimes I'm told that everything's poised to go, that ‘All we need is a deputy to come in and hit the button and you're going to be paid.’ That makes me hopeful that makes me check my bank account daily. ‘Oh, I'm gonna get paid.’ This is looking good. Then the next week, I'm told, ‘Oh, your something had expired. And so you need to refile paperwork.’"
Atkinson and Kristen Franck, whom we profiled last week, are hardly alone. An attorney with Central Virginia Legal Aid sent me a statement this week. Martin Wegbreit wrote:
“I have won five of my last seven VEC appeals to Circuit Court. In all five of them, the VEC made no effort within two months to even contact my client to start the payment process, let alone complete it. In three of those cases, I had to start the process of putting the case back on the Circuit Court docket for an Order of enforcement before the VEC finally made payment. Two more recent cases are headed that way."
Atkinson says apart from hiring a lawyer she's tried pretty much everything.
"I've actually written to Carrie Roth, the commissioner,” said Atkinson.” I've written to Del. Lamont Bagby, I've actually written to the governor, because I keep on trying to have my case escalated, and it never seems to be escalated. No matter what I do. I call I send letters, no results."
Most perplexing to Atkinson is what she says is the disconnect between official declarations by the VEC and the reality she has been stymied by.
“I had heard on a news story that they had worked their way through 90% of their cases,” Atkinson said. “So I'm thinking okay, I must be in that 10%. That doesn't seem so bad. Surely, I know that I've done what they've asked me to do all along. And that is why it's so puzzling to me.”
In addition to asking VEC spokeswoman Joyce Fogg repeatedly about why the VEC won't pay successful appeals and just how many there are, I have asked over the course of months for a chance to speak to VEC Commissioner Carrie Roth.
She has not replied to a single inquiry on those topics.
On Friday morning, I asked the governor's office if Governor Youngkin has any comment on the VEC's performance, which he has said is one of his priorities.
As of Friday night, I had not heard back.