Darth Vader with light saber tilts the scales of justice to his benefit

Department investigators are NOT true and accurate

At almost every unemployment hearing there will be document in the hearing packet that pretends to be a claimant statement. This “statement” pretends to represent what the claimant told a Department investigator in a phone call, and at the hearing the administrative law judge will almost always ask the claimant, “Is this statement true and accurate?”

Note: Many people tell me about their phone interviews being recorded. Phone interviews are never recorded, because then the pretend claimant statements describe here would not be possible.

No, a claiman statement is not true and accurate. It never is. If the statement was true and accurate it would be a transcript of the phone conversation. Or, it would at least be the original notes, without any editing, of the entire and complete phone conversation (and so qualify, for legal purposes, as contemporaneous notes, when the person who wrote those notes testifies at the hearing).

What these “claimant statements” are actually are just pretend confessions, as the only information in these statements is the information the investigator wants to include to establish the claimant’s fault or mistake.

To understand what is going on here, below is a claimant statement/confession prepared by Department investigator Anastasia-1437 and then the contemporaneous notes written by the claimant herself during that phone conversation (the claimant was a former paralegal, who made it a habit to take notes of her phone conversations with Department staffers).

Pretend claimant statement

Note: Outside of changes to names and identifying information, below is a verbatim copy of the claimant statement.

6/28/22: I call it the claimant at 8:30 AM, identify myself, indicated that I received a call from her and am presuming it is due to the “Call Me” letter that I have sent her, identify the issues and requested that the call me back no later than 8:30 AM on 6/30/22. I indicated that if she does reach my voicemail that she please leave a message indicating the best times to reach her. I provided my name, title and telephone number and explained that if I did not hear from her by the deadline, a determination will be made based on best available information.

6/28/22: I understand Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provides for the repayment of all overpaid benefits, penalties, and that I may lose Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or be referred for prosecution if it is determined I made a false statement, misrepresentation, or omitted facts in order to receive benefits not due.

I understand that the statement I am making will be used to determine my eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. I understand that any false statement I make may result in overpayment of benefits, penalties, loss of future unemployment benefits and possible prosecution.

My name is CLAIMANT. My date of birth is XX/XX/59 . I have a Master’s Degree in YYYYYY/years of education. It was a long time ago but think that I have read the “Notice to All PUA Applicants” and “PUA Rights and Responsibilities.” I filed my own claims. I live in Walworth County. I filed my claims online from Walworth County.

I have refused the notice that you have sent me and the wages, vacation pay and holiday pay from ACME CORP looks accurate and the wages for one day of work with the GROVER’S CORNERS are accurate.

The claimant was asked why she did not report the work and wages, vacation, and/or holiday pay in each of the weeks in which she worked and/or received vacation pay and/ or received holiday pay when filing her weekly claims for PUA benefits.

Let me explain this… I have a voice studio [MARIA CALLAS Productions Inc] which is my main source of income and I only work at ACME CORP to get health insurance. I work full time at ACME but only get paid $13.50 per hour which is far less than what I make in my voice studio. Because of COVID-19, I was unable to give voice lessons because the schools have closed due to the pandemic. Even now, we may plan and an event but we have COVID outbreaks and place is still closed down. My business never recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.

I explained to the claimant that I was not questioning as to why she filed for PUA benefits; my question is different. I explained that in order to receive pua benefits weekly, the claimant has to file a weekly claim certification in which each week she is asked if she worked in employment. I explained that in each week in which she worked for ACME CORP and/or GROVER’S CORNERS She reported that she did not work in employment and certified each week that her responses were accurate and correct.

I understand what you’re saying. I misunderstood and I thought they were only talking about my studio, my self-employment.

Explained to the claimant that the weekly claim certification system asks two questions; it asks if she worked in employment and separately asks if she worked in self-employment in which she answered no to both and asked why she answered no to both.

It was an honest and stupid mistake. I was filing for PUA for my business only, not for the job where I worked full time and I thought they were asking about my business, my voice studio [MARIA CALLAS Productions Inc].

I have nothing further to add; I have no questions

Contemporaneous notes (what was actually said)

Note: Outside of changes to names and identifying information, below is a verbatim copy of the claimant’s contemporaneous notes.

6/28/22 — 42 minutes, 35 seconds.

An adjudicator arranged a telephone conversation with me at 8:30 AM. Her name was Anastasia. We exchanged greetings and then she notified me that she was calling to discuss the benefits that I applied for and received through the PUA Unemployment Program. She told me that this conversation was to determine if I made false statements, omitted facts in a fraudulent manner, etc.

I asked her if the conversation was being recorded and she said no. Then I asked if I was being accused of a crime and should I hire a lawyer to represent me before I had any further discussions with her. She stressed that that would not be necessary, that she was just collecting information at this time, that there was no determination against me.

She asked me why I didn’t report my employment at ACME Corp.

I told her that I had never tried to conceal my job at ACME and all she had to do was read my initial application for PUA benefits and she would see that I had ACME listed as an employer.

I went on to explain to her that my small business was my major source of income and that was shut down as soon as the schools and universities were shut down- that I was a sub-contractor at those schools. I pointed out again that this was explained in initial application.

She said that they weren’t questioning if my small business was legit . . . and I interrupted her and said I hope not because during my initial application, I had to upload several years of tax returns to prove my business was legit.

She said that no one was questioning my business MARIA CALLAS Productions existed and that I definitely qualified for PUA benefits.

She then explained that I didn’t qualify to be paid any benefits because I was working at ACME.

Then I asked her then why was I paid?

She replied that I answered specific questions incorrectly and therefore was concealing the fact that I was working full time at ACME.

I asked her what question did I answer weekly that is being considered concealment?

She read me a question that I explained to her after was always unclear to me and I answered it in accordance with the facts of my business that was shut down. There was never any intent to conceal facts in order to collect the $173.00 per week.

She said that it was my responsibility to read and interpret correctly the PUA Rights and Responsibilities.

I told her that I had read those and that they were also unclear and left me more confused than before so I started calling PUA agents several times (9 all together) to ask them to interpret the rules of PUA — specifically about my situation with the ACME job. Each and every one of these agents — who supposedly are professionals and know PUA benefits thoroughly — told me that I should keep claiming weekly just like I had that the ACME job was totally separate from PUA benefits. That PUA was being paid to me for my lost self-employment.

Anastasia said that that was most unfortunate, but unfortunately, I, the claimant, was responsible for knowing what to do, not the agents.

I got angry and said, Are you trying to tell me that your agents aren’t responsible for giving the correct answers to the claimants?

Then she got nervous. And gave me an 8-minute speech on the conditions for the workers at Unemployment. “CLAIMANT, I have been working 7 days a week since the pandemic started in 2020. I was here before the pandemic. No one could have been prepared for what happened and how we were grossly under-staffed and how our technology was way outdated to handle the numbers of claims that came in on a daily basis. We had to hire scores of workers and we had no time to train any of them. It usually takes one whole year to fully train a worker here. What we ended up doing is training groups of people for a part of the system and then other groups for another part of the system and so on. So none of these new workers could begin to answer questions outside of their area that they were trained. The best one could do is transfer the call to another new agent, hopefully that was trained in the area that the claimant needed to get info.

I interrupted her and told her that on one of the calls I made, I talked to three agents and never got my question answered.

She said, yes, that she believed me. Then I asked her — then why are you trying to accuse me or charge me with concealment when I just told you that I tried to get the correct instructions from your department.

She told me that it all came down to how I answered the questions.

I said but the question wasn’t clear. The questions are not clearly stated. She said that she disagreed with me.

I asked her if there were other PUA claimants that were tripped up on some of the questions and also answered regarding their self-employment. I said you know Anastasia, a lot of people have two jobs, it is very common. Especially with single people.

I then asked her if any suits had been filed against the DWD Unemployment Dept. for giving false information, or not being able to give any information, or for harassment and punitive damages to an already terribly stressed and financially devastated population of self employed and small business owners.

She said she wasn’t aware of any such suits.

And I said, I believe that there may be some in the future. I think what has happened today is illegal, unethical and down right criminal. If you ask me the State is trying to get their money that they gave during the pandemic to pay for the new computer system they had to get because the one they had was not able to handle the number of claims. WI made us wait much longer than other states to get our first payments which made great hardship on many folks. And now WI is going to get it all back and jack up a lot of fines so they can get even more money. Shame on them. And Anastasia, you are wrong, I do need to lawyer up. Big time.

She replied, Oh no not necessarily. Lawyers are very expensive. Look you need to go to your portal and appeal everything. I’m sure if you do, you can represent yourself and have the concealment lifted because you did not intend to conceal. I believe that, CLAIMANT. I figure they’ll drop also drop all of the 40% penalties as well. I figure you will be looking at around $6000.00 that you’ll have to pay back.

I said, Hm, that’s about what I got paid all together. She said yes, you shouldn’t have been paid anything because you were working at ACME.

I said, I wish I’d quit claiming when I couldn’t get a straight answer. Well, I have to get back to work. And she said that she did too but she had decided to retire at the end of this year. She said that the stress was getting to her because she was one of the very few that actually knew the system and the workload was killing her.

I said good luck and happy retirement. I have to go back to work but I will appeal every count against me and I will hire a lawyer.

The takeaway

Naturally, the claimant was charged with concealment, and supposedly owed $29,992.20 ($20,223.00 in PUA, LWA, and PUC benefits she was paid + $9,769.20 in concealment administrative penalties). But for her contemporaneous notes and the fact that she had other notes of when she told Department staffers about her work at ACME and they told her to ignore that work when filing PUA claims the concealment allegations were tossed at the hearing.

But, notice what Anastasia is doing in her “claimant statement.”

First, she presents a statement that the claimant has complete understanding of what is going on. Second, Anastasia establishes that the claimant is highly educated and has no disabilities, so cannot claim a lack of understanding in some way.

Third, Anastasia sets forth that the claimant provided wrong information on her weekly certifications, namely wages that went unreported.

Fourth, Anastasia indicates that the claimant understand that she failed to report wages accurately.

For the Department, unemployment fraud — aka concealment — is now established. That is all that is needed, as far as the Department is concerned (for why, see The profit in unemployment concealment.

But, Anastasia — being an experienced investigator — goes a step further and “engages” the claimant on why wages were not reported correctly. The confession for having fraudulent intent is this quotation:

It was an honest and stupid mistake. I was filing for PUA for my business only, not for the job where I worked full time and I thought they were asking about my business, my voice studio [MARIA CALLAS Productions Inc].

For the Department, the admission of an unintentional/negligent claim-filing mistake, for purposes of unemployment concealment, establishes an intent to commit fraud.

Of course, this admission is fabricated and what was actually said during this phone call was much, much different. In place of this alleged confession, the claimant presented solid evidence about how she told Department staffers about her work at ACME and was mistakenly told by them to NOT report those wages and hours of work when filing her weekly certifications for PUA benefits. Anastasia was not interested in that information about how the claimant was misled by the bad advice of Department staffers, however. Anastasia’s goal was to draft a “confession” to committing unemployment fraud, and so that is what Anastasia drafted.

At the hearings in these cases, administrative law judges are trained to follow the same agenda that Anastasia is following: the claimant understood what was going on, the claimant provided wrong information, the claimant admitted to being responsible for that wrong information, and the claimant was negligent. Should the claimant admit at the hearing to the “claimant statement” being true and accurate, the case is closed, and that is why claimants are almost always asked at these hearings about these statements being true and accurate. Without that admission, a “claimant statement” does not count as any actual evidence.

The saddest part of this episode is that what Anastasia did here is all too common. Indeed, the “advice” Anastasia offered about how the concealment charges would easily be dismissed at a hearing and that legal representation was completely unnecessary is something I often hear from claimants about these investigations. The only unique facet to what happened here is that the claimant herself took contemporaneous notes of her conversation with Anastasia and so could present those notes at her hearing about what really was said.

Note: And, those notes allowed the claimant to recall the details of that phone conversation that had taken place months prior to the unemployment hearing.

So, all parties to the unemployment process need to understand that truthfulness and accuracy are NOT the responsibility of the Department. As a result, you need to track independently what information is told to you and to be prepared to challenge at any time what a Department investigator or administrative law judge is telling you about what “actually” happened.

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3 thoughts on “Department investigators are NOT true and accurate

  1. To Wisconsin Unemployment and government associations with Wisconsin, or to whom this may concern,

    You’ve brought false information, depression, anxiety, retaliation and discrimination towards me and my family due to your incompetence and lack of disregard to my claims for Unemployment through Brunk Industries in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. My last employer in 2020. I’d like to take this opportunity for the medical bills, homelessness and false documentation of your system. Go fuck yourselves!!!

    Sincerely,

    Michael James Gallardo

    • Maddening. Wouldn’t it be nice if the world was made where people try to help others rather than screw them over at every opportunity?

  2. As a former adjudicator with no love lost when I left, I read these with interest. It is no secret that adjudicators’ statements are summaries of the conversation, and the statements are readily available to all interested parties. I am not sure if you are insinuating that Anastasia falsified or wrote a misleading statement. Essentially, the claimant provided no new information, so I’m not sure what the point is?

    In this particular case, the claimant *admitted* to not reporting work and wages from Acme. That is potential fraud, and Anastasia is doing her job to determine why the claimant did not report this information accurately. Without a statement, Anastasia does not know what happened from the claimant’s side, which is important to know. Adjudicators are not trained to deny, or to find fraud, despite your belief. They are taught to ask questions to find out what happened, which she did. The instructions from UI are clear and that *any and all* work must be reported. This claimant purports to be educated, so she should be aware of the requirements to read all of the materials provided. Even though the materials are written in “plain language”, a paralegal should have had no problem understanding the requirements so I am curious as to her explanation. Based on her own words, her reasoning for not answering a simple yes or no question accurately is extremely flimsy.

    Are you trying to justify her failing to answer the questions accurately with this post? At what point are people held accountable for receiving money they were not entitled to? Never? That isn’t reasonable or responsible. There is a balance.

    I don’t agree with a lot of things that happened in the Walker years, including the excessive fraud penalties for first time incidents (2x the weekly benefit rate and a 40% overpayment charge), but I do believe that adjudicators work extremely hard and that at some point, claimants need to take personal responsibility for their claims.

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