My Adventures with the VEC
I left a really lousy job in April of 2012 when my employer got pissy about my thinking I had certain legal rights. When I left, they told the Virginia Employment Commission that I had been fired for unprofessional behavior, which would disqualify me for unemployment benefits. And my adventure began.
I was told by someone at the VEC that I wouldn’t be able to get benefits, and my account was locked (which it was). So I waited for my appeal to be heard. My first appeal went badly, as my former employee submitted “incorrect” statements. So I appealed again. This time the VEC looked a little more closely. It was found that my former employer had absolutely no credible evidence of any unprofessional action on my part, or even disciplinary action. Yay, me. I was retroactively eligible for benefits.
Of course, since I hadn’t been applying for them the whole time, I didn’t get them. Sorry.
Then I made the mistake of trying to make my own work. Stupid me. I should have just been sitting on the sofa all day playing Call of Duty. It would have saved me a lot of hassle and made me more money. But instead, I started beating the brush to find someone – anyone – who would let me do some freelance work. And I found someone, and began doing a few hours a week.
Unfortunately I got nailed by red tape. The company I was doing freelance work for accidentally submitted me as a new hire. Suddenly the air was awash with frantic swirling. The company was now looking at being accused of not paying benefits, and I was accused of cheating on my unemployment benefits.
So I talked to a VEC fraud investigator for half of a day. I explained to her that no, I was not anyone’s employee. No, I don’t work every day, and no I don’t get benefits or a regular paycheck. I also told her that I was claiming income only on weeks I actually received income, and was that correct?
She heard none of this. Nor did she listen to the information sent by the company. Instead she took the information and fubar’ed it royally. She took the paychecks and divided them by the number of days in the work week, and determined how much I was making each day, and therefore how much I was lying about to the VEC. I then received a letter in the mail telling me that I was guilty of defrauding the Commonwealth, owed the VEC $1,200, and was ineligible for any benefits for 52 weeks.
Next came my official appeal. As I researched it, it turned out that although it screws me as a freelancer, I was supposed to be claiming income when I worked, not when I received it (sucks for me, as that means I go 30-60 days without getting paid, but don’t qualify for benefits. Enjoy that Fair-Play soup, kids). But it certainly wasn’t intentional. Which I thought might be obvious since when I DID get a check, I declared it as income for that week.
Today I had the hearing. And, as seems par for this particular course, the corrected information sent by the company (the “he didn’t work every day” stuff) wasn’t in the stack of evidence. And the examiner didn’t have access to the recorded phone call(s). So it was essentially just me saying “I’m an idiot, but not an evil idiot.” Awesome.
I’ll keep you posted. Unless they don’t let me blog in Gitmo.
Received my initial hearing verdict. Although it was clear that I misunderstood the rules and entered the wrong information, it was not apparent that it was intentional. Also, as the numbers collected by the VEC were wrong, the decision was vacated and referred back to benefit research to determine what the actual amounts of overpayment were, and when they were. Which I’m fine with.
Of course, now that I don’t have any work to do, it would be nice if I could get benefits for this period, but at least I’m not dead. Yet.