On June 9th, Sec. Frostman indicated a change of heart at the Department, as the Department now considered the denial of PUA benefits to SSDI recipients to be both in violation of the CARES Act and discrimination against the disabled in violation of various federal requirements.
But, the Department delayed taking any action by pushing the issue back to federal authorities for additional clarification.
In the meantime, actual cases regarding the denial of unemployment eligibility continued. On June 30th, I filed an appeal in one of those cases. In this appeal, I asked the Commission for a quick decision in this matter, given how many of the disabled have been going without any unemployment support or work for months now.
The Department filed an answer on July 7th.
In contrast to Sec. Frostman’s letter, the Department maintained in this answer that the Commission should affirm the denial of benefits to this disabled worker because she received SSDI benefits and that any decision regarding her PUA benefits claim had to wait until the Department issued a decision (which the Department would NOT do until all her other claims and appeals were exhausted).
It was as if Sec. Frostman had never issued his letter at all.
Moreover, this answer was just plain wrong on about everything it said legally. So, I filed a response the next day.
For instance, the Department’s answer says that discrimination against the disabled regarding eligibility for SSDI recipients was previously decided by the Commission in Rose Hanley, UI Hearing No. 17600677MW (7 April 2017). That case can hardly be considered legally definitive, as no detailed argument or explanation is provided regarding the discrimination claim in question. Furthermore, that case concerned a claim of discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which applies in employment and housing and access to buildings. As noted in my letter brief and Sec. Frostman’s letter, the federal discrimination laws that apply to the administration of unemployment benefits are quite different and specifically acknowledged by federal authorities and the Commission (but apparently not the Department as a whole) as applying to the administration of unemployment benefits.
My response to the Department’s answer also included the following poster, which used to hang in the unemployment offices of this state.
This poster indicates why all workers need unemployment benefits. But, in fighting a decision to find the disabled eligible for unemployment benefits, the Department is ignoring why Wisconsin invented unemployment benefits in the first place. A weekly benefit for food and shelter does not exist when the state agency actively takes every opportunity to deny unemployment benefits for weeks and now months at a time.
As I wrote in my response to the Department’s answer:
Today, July 8th, for the claimant featured in this media report — https://www.wisconsinwatch.org/2020/06/wisconsin-blocks-pandemic-payments-for-federal-disability-aid-recipients/ — I received an appeal confirmation for an appeal I filed on May 15th. It is beyond cruel to make SSDI recipients wait several more months for their PUA claims to be adjudicated in the Department’s discretion. People and their families literally are starving because of inaction and legal delays by the Department.
Despite Sec. Frostman’s June 9th letter admitting the denial of PUA benefits to the disabled is not supported by the CARES Act and is discriminatory, the Department is fighting a decision on this very issue and is instead only offering weeks of additional delay.
The people of Wisconsin deserve better.
Update (9 July 2020): for some basic information about who receives SSDI, see this explanation.
Update (17 July 2020): Fox6 has an update as well on SSDI folks still being denied.