Confusion abounds at DWD over SSDI

Note: Here is an appeal letter I filed today to the Labor and Industry Review Commission in two more SSDI cases.

Dear Commissioners:

On Ms. __’s behalf, I am petitioning for Commission review of the above-referenced matter.

This matter concerns the eligibility of SSDI recipients for unemployment benefits and PUA benefits and the discriminatory nature of Wisconsin’s prohibition against the disabled.

The same issues and arguments raised in Hearing No. 20602969MW are present in this case. Accordingly, here too I am asking for an expedited decision by the Commission in this matter.

One difference, however, is that the Department’s actions continue to sow additional confusion in regards to the legal questions at stake. I am attaching various documents that I ask the Commission to take administrative notice regarding the Department’s actions in regards to SSDI eligibility. As evident in these documents, the Department’s continued basis for denying PUA claims is the same state law that denies regular unemployment benefits to SSDI recipients, Wis. Stat. § 108.04(12)(f).

  • Ex.1 is an initial determination dated 2 June 2020 denying a claim for PUA benefits for the week ending 3/21/2020 for a recipient of SSDI benefits. The claimant here only applied for PUA benefits, as he is an independent contractor. For the Department, the applicable law is Wis. Stat. §§ 108.04(2)(h) and 108.04(12)(f).
  • Ex.2 is an initial determination two pages in length dated 26 June 2020 approving a claim for PUA benefits for the week ending 3/28/2020 for a recipient of SSDI benefits. The claimant here only applied for PUA benefits, as he is an independent contractor. For the Department, the applicable law is Pub. L. 116-136 (the CARES Act) and 20 CFR § 625.
  • Ex.3 is an initial determination dated 6 July 2020 denying a claim for PUA benefits for the week ending 5/9/2020 for the same claimant who was approved for PUA benefits in Ex.2. For the Department, the applicable law is Wis. Stat. §§ 108.04(2)(h) and 108.04(12)(f).
  • Ex.4 is a screenshot of PUA and PUC benefit payments the claimant in Ex.2 and Ex.3 received on 5 July 2020. In total, this claimant received his $163 weekly PUA for 13 weeks and a $600 PUC benefit for 12 weeks.
  • Ex.5 is an initial determination two pages in length dated 11 June 2020 approving a claim for PUA benefits for the week ending 3/28/2020 for a recipient of SSDI benefits. The claimant here only applied for PUA benefits, as she is an independent contractor. For the Department, the applicable law is Pub. L. 116-136 (the CARES Act) and 20 CFR § 625.
  • Ex.6 is an initial determination dated 15 June 2020 denying a claim for PUA benefits for the week ending 6/6/2020 for the same claimant who was approved for PUA benefits in Ex.5 . For the Department, the applicable law is Wis. Stat. §§ 108.04(2)(h) and 108.04(12)(f).
  • Ex.7 is an an initial determination dated 15 July 2020 denying a claim for PUA benefits for the week ending 3/28/2020 for the same claimant who was approved for PUA benefits in Ex.5 and then denied those benefits in Ex.6. For the Department, the applicable law is Wis. Stat. §§ 108.04(2)(h) and 108.04(12)(f).
  • Ex.8 is the debit card that the claimant in question in Ex.5, Ex.6, and Ex.7 received in the mail yesterday.
  • Ex.9 is a payment screen for the claimant in question in Ex.5-8 indicating payment for 11 weeks of PUA benefits and the $600 PUC benefit made on 15 July 2020.

I have no idea what is going on with these various determinations and actions by the Department. The Department’s FAQ for PUA benefits — https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/uiben/pua/#faq — states the following as of today in regards to SSDI benefits:

SSDI PUA FAQ

Here is what at best can be gleaned from the Department’s actions. First, the Department is maintaining that state law governs both PUA and regular unemployment eligibility for the disabled. Second, by insisting that claimants determine how they are eligible by deciding which kind of benefit claim they pursue — regular or PUA — the Department is forcing claimants to pursue both kinds of claims given that the Department is denying both kinds of claims for the same reason.

Third, by failing to resolve issues on its own initiative, the Department is creating a situation that guarantees confusion and mistakes by Department personnel when processing these claims. The claimants who have received their PUA benefits despite initial determinations proclaiming them ineligible will face demands from the Department to repay these benefits. Some may avoid repayment through arguments over departmental error. Others will have to repay. As such, unemployment has essentially become a lottery system in which a few — after a legal battle — may eventually keep their unemployment benefits because they were “lucky” enough to have an error in their favor. Others, equally deserving, will have nothing unless the Commission acts quickly to correct what the Department is doing.

Claimants cannot and should not be expected to navigate on their own the legal issues involved with filing an unemployment claim and somehow guess how the Department will decide these issues at some future date. Such a requirement runs against the whole point of why and how unemployment was originally put into place in Wisconsin. All that claimants want and need is the stabilizing income unemployment is supposed to provide at a time of job loss. They do not care if the monies come from regular unemployment or PUA. That is a Department issue that the Department should be deciding.

The Department has failed to provide necessary guidance here. Under Wisconsin’s laws, the Commission has the authority and responsibility to decide issues of unemployment law and must make sure that the Department administers unemployment benefits pursuant to what state and federal law require. I ask that the Commission do so here.

Thank you.

3 thoughts on “Confusion abounds at DWD over SSDI

  1. Thank you for your work on behalf of the disabled. Your efforts show that while the disabled are being evicted from their apartments, begging for food, and living under extreme stress – the department is heading in total chaos having no real leader or director that can make a decision. Secretary Caleb has authority under the UI code to make a decision, but he lacks the courage to do so. The lawyers that went to Wisconsin law schools are incompetent because they are exempt from taking a bar exam ( I think
    Wisconsin is the only state that allows that) and the Governor that signed this barring statute into law, is a college drop out or flunk out. No it is clear why we are the only state to have such a bizarre law.

  2. Having only finished high school, this problem with what law applies is a constitutional issue. When a federal and state law conflict, the federal rules as the supreme law of the land. Under the supreme law of the land, people receiving SSDI are covered under federal law,

  3. Pingback: SSDI — Waiting for the discrimination to end | Wisconsin Unemployment

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