Unlike the last posts where I have attempted to restrain myself a bit and not rant. I’m going to enter full rant mode here.
When I got laid off, I was looking at finances and realized: “Hey wait, I should be eligible for unemployment”. Now, I’ll admit that I felt a bit weird about it. I make enough money, I have enough assets that if push came to shove, I could live for quite a while. But at the same time, my taxes pay for the benefits that others receive, I’m a legitimate case, and so it would be (IMO) silly of me to throw away money that was due me. Money that could help keep my afloat just in case my unemployment went longer than expected.
Which it did.
What began was a saga of pain. Without getting into details, there was a particular problem with my records in Unemployment’s database. This one point (actually an almost hilarious cascade of issues), almost kept me from getting my unemployment, and in fact caused me to have a solid 3 months pass before I received any unemployment benefits at all.
The part that was so frustrating, was that it became impossible for me to fix the issue. The following items kept happening:
- I’d get notice of scheduled phone calls to discuss my case in the mail. At best a couple days before the call. Once I got the notice after the call already happened. Of course these are ‘make the call or else benefits will be denied’ situations.
- Any attempts to reschedule calls (if, say, I was going to be on an airplane to a job interview), failed. Because it was impossible to get a hold of someone on the phone. It would hang up instantly any time I tried to call, saying ‘too busy’.
- When I did manage to make a call, the person I would talk to, would refuse to let me try to explain the problem/confusion/issues. They had specific questions they needed to ask. They would only let me answer those questions. The questions being asked were never the right questions. So I could never explain the problem.
- They treat each job you had, as a separate case. So if you give them information about job #2 when someone calls you about job #1. They ignore it completely.
In the end, I got all the way to having an appeal of my case with a lawyer, where I was told ‘NO’. (It turns out, because the lawyer was only looking at Job #1, and didn’t have information on Job #2 – Separate cases again)
I would still not have received any benefits, if it wasn’t for a fateful tweet/facebook post that I made. Ranting. Turns out, I have a good friend who works for MD Unemployment. She looked at my case file, had some friends look at it and they all agreed. I was easily qualified and due unemployment benefits. Just that ‘one point’ needed fixed.
I was given a number/name to fax some documentation to. I did that, and a week later, suddenly received benefits.
Hilarious ending to the story, was that I never heard anything back from Unemployment about my fax. Just suddenly I started getting paperwork providing me benefits, as if I’d just enrolled for unemployment. In fact, I was then required to attend a ‘counseling session’ (Intervention) to help me through my ‘recent unemployment’, even though it was over 4 months ago at that point.
Thing is, I understand that these errors might be uncommon. I understand that right now the office is completely overwhelmed with requests. But because of the handling, I was originally denied what I was entitled to. Had I not had that friend, I would have received no benefits.
In the end, it was a case of something getting too automated. They’d removed all ‘personal’ contact from the process, and had turned it all into a machine with 10 different people calling you, each only allowed to ask you a couple questions, and never could you just talk to someone, like my friend, who could just look at the whole case and go: “Duh, we need to fix that right there”