‘I am a victim of fraud:’ Richmond woman waiting for VEC benefits gets help from delegate
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A Richmond woman who has been waiting for nearly 3 months for a Virginia Employment Commission fraud claim to be escalated is finding help through her local delegate’s office.
“I submit resumes every day. However, until that comes in. I’m being told, ‘yes, you are owed this money,’ but nothing’s been done about it,” said Shameka Brown.
Brown was laid off from her employer at the end of September. She says she was advised to apply for unemployment assistance while applying for new positions. When Brown first reached out to the VEC, she was told there was already a claim in her name.
“You know, this person that’s receiving my benefits on my behalf is not me,” she explained. “As far as I know, he’s using my date of birth, my social. He’s also using, at that time, the employer that I was working with and using my name as well. The only thing he’s not using is the gender.”
The employer the person appears to be using is a company Brown says she has not worked for in years. In fact, in 2019, Brown says her employer, at the time, was contacted by the VEC about a claim in her name. Brown says because she was still working, she was told by the VEC it was likely fraud, but nothing else happened. Brown later left that company.
Years later, she wonders if the person who attempted to receive benefits in 2019 is receiving benefits with her information.
In order to file a fraud claim and access her benefits, Brown was told to send copies of her marriage license, social security card, driver’s license and a utility bill to prove her identity. She was told the information would be given to the VEC’s fraud department. After waiting two weeks, Brown called to follow up and continued to wait.
“I have been prompt as far as following up with that office. I feel like I’m being given the runaround,” Brown said.
On Oct. 5, 2022, the VEC announced the “identification of approximately 4,200 unemployment insurance claims that may have been compromised.”
“The team at the Virginia Employment Commission acted swiftly to identify the claimants impacted and prevent further illegal activity. We are committed to resolving this issue and are working with law enforcement to pursue those responsible for these actions,” said Carrie Roth, Commissioner of the VEC. “We have already been able to recoup some of the funds that have been identified and are working to return payments to customers.”
VEC says there have been 88 federal and state fraud convictions, with the highest conviction being 103 months. More than $5 million in restitution has been ordered.
In a statement to the On Your Side Investigators, VEC provided the following information regarding fraud:
- VEC has completed nearly all unemployment insurance backlogs from Jan.15, 2022. Appeals remain an area of focus resulting from the success of removing the backlog in other workstreams.
- VEC has waived over $216 million in overpayments and is currently recovering overpayments not approved for a waiver.
- Identity theft is the new frontier for unemployment commissions, not seen before the pandemic. VEC has identified nearly $1.6 billion in paid claims as identity theft and prevented over $1 billion in benefits from being paid out in claims tagged as identity theft.
- As of Jan. 6, 2023, VEC has investigated over 94 percent of potential fraud claims. The dollar amount of possible fraud to investigate in January of 2022 was over $1.56 billion, and the current dollar amount remaining to investigate is just over $148 million. About 30 percent of the claims to investigate were unpaid.
For NBC 12 viewer Lori Porter, getting access to unemployment benefits after a fraudulent claim was difficult for months until she contacted the legislator in her district.
“If someone has been told by phone ‘fraud’ but have not received anything from a Deputy at VEC, advise that person to send an email or call their VA State Legislative Delegate in their district and have them escalate their claim,” said Porter. “If they received a notification, they have to get in touch with VEC.---this was the avenue I took as I heard nothing from the VEC or the Deputies. No notification in the mail. Nothing.”
After reaching out to her delegate, they escalated Porter’s claim. VEC emailed Porter and she later filled out forms from the weeks of July 16th thru October 29th. Right before the new year, Porter received her benefits.
After first speaking with Shameka Brown, the On Your Side investigators searched for Brown’s delegate and reached out to the office Betsy Carr (D). In an e-mail, a legislative aid wrote: “I have reached out to [Mrs. Brown] on Delegate Carr’s behalf and will be happy to advocate on her behalf with the VEC.”
Brown confirmed Delegate Carr’s office sent her forms to fill out to start the process of helping her access unemployment benefits.
“I’m hoping everything will be resolved so I can start receiving my benefits, so I can get help to pay my bills and take care of the everyday necessities that we need,” said Brown
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