A number of people who are unemployed in Massachusetts and have lost their benefits due to situations with part-time employment, freelance income, and problems accepting or refusing employment have commented on my blog or sent me emails asking for help. I made some calls today and decided to post some information here in the hope that it can help…
Disclaimer: I have not gone through this process myself (and hope I will never have to) and I do not have personal knowledge of the facts involved in any individual case. I am not representing anyone as an attorney; just reporting what I understand the process to be. If you know better…please comment appropriately and help everyone…
The most important thing you can do if you believe your benefits are being wrongly denied is to continue to file your weekly claim by phone or online. If you don’t file those weekly claims, even if the original denial is reversed, you will not be able to collect benefits retroactively.
When your benefits are canceled or denied, you should receive a letter informing you of this decision and your right to request a hearing. I get the impression that some people are told on the phone that they no longer qualify for benefits and then they just give up. Don’t do that. If you receive this letter, it should include instructions on how to request a hearing which initiates the process described on the DUA web site.
Make your appeal timely–you have 10 days from the original letter to contest the determination.
If you do not receive a letter, you can contact the Adjustment Unit of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Unimployment Assurance to state your claim and request a hearing. These hearings can take weeks or months to schedule, during which time you should keep filing your weekly claim.
Write a letter, identifying yourself, including your Social Security Number and any case/claim number information you have, and stating that you would like to request a review of your eligibility for benefits. State the facts about your claim–when did you file, what conversations did you have on the phone, what the current status of your benefits are as you understand them… It is best to state the procedural facts clearly and unemotionally to make it clear what you are asking for and what actions have been taken by DUA up to this point. Then, you can describe your circumstances–why you did what you were told disqualified you.
The purpose of this letter is to get a hearing, not to win your case outright. So don’t tell them your life story and don’t provide extraneous facts about your employment or other information that they don’t know about that might raise additional issues!
For example, if you were told that because you quit a job, you can no longer claim benefits, you should say something like this: “The Tele-Claim representative told me that because I had stopped working as a dishwasher, I was no longer eligible to file for weekly benefits. I stopped filing my weekly claim but never received any formal notice of this decision.” As you relate the facts, focus on “what” happened, not what you believe, think, feel, desire or wish. Then, request a review very explicity by saying, “I would like you to review my denial of benefits and give me an opportunity to appeal the decision.” Then, you go into the consequences: “Based on what I was told, I stopped filing weekly claims. I was never fully employed and [rest of story.]
That’s just my advice on writing a persuasive letter–obviously eveyone has their own situation, but the important thing is to lay out the procedural facts as accurately as possible and ask for an opportunity to provide additional information to help them make a more accurate determination of your status.
Send this letter to:
Adjustment Unit, DUA Department of Workforce Development Charles F. Hurley Building 19 Staniford Street, 2nd Floor Boston, MA 02114
Then wait. Unfortunately, there is a backlog and it could be 6-8 weeks before you hear anything. However, after 3 weeks, you can call the Hearings Department at 617-626-5200 to verify that the case has been opened/entered into the system, at which point you would receive a docket number that can be used to check status on the phone.
Don’t give up. If I were in the situation described by some of the people who have contacted me, I would send a letter and start filing my weekly claim immediately AND argue that my failure to file previous weeks was not my fault because I was told to stop claiming. If the online form will not allow you to file a weekly claim…call the Tele-Claim center at 617-626-6338. If that person says “you’re not eligible,” then you should say “I am filing an appeal and want to certify that for this week, I was available for work, looked for work, and did not earn any money.”
Pace yourself. You still need to find a job, but these benefits–if you deserve them–might be the difference between digging out of debt for years after you find work. So:
- write that letter and mail it
- do your weekly claim – keep the work search log going too so you have documentation of your efforts to find a job and you don’t create another problem
- wait 3 weeks, then call the Hearing Department at DUA to verify the hearing process is initiated. If it is not…hopefully they can help you on the phone to know what to do next.
- go to the hearing and make your case
If the hearing results in an adverse judgment…you have the right to appeal the hearing as well.
As with any bureaucratic process, it would be nice if someone told you all this up front…or if someone acted as your advocate/guide/counsellor along the way. But that’s not how it works, so live, learn, and share.