New portal 2.0 and how to navigate it

Update (30 April 2021): Made the headline more descriptive.

Update (12 Aug. 2021): Added sections on how to get additional/older benefit payment history and how to send documents securely via Signal. Shortened the title and changed the image for the post.

The Department has been announcing its new unemployment portal.

New UI portal home screen with messages and claim status showing

The problem with this new portal is that basic functionality and information remains unchanged. All that has happened is that the Department has replaced a few menu commands with some new icons. The confusing messages about claim status, the lack of access to the legal documents that decide claim status like benefit year calculations remain, and the multiple layers and clicks to find key information and documents that might or might not be available are still present. Furthermore, there is still no instruction or guidance from the Department about how to navigate the portal to accomplish vital tasks, like appealing an initial determination.

One of the first problems claimants will notice is that not all commands/tools are available to all claimants. For instance, the Department is advertising how claimants can now upload documents. But, that feature is only available to certain claimants when the Department itself decides that those claimants need that ability. The portal for the PUA claimant shown below lacks the document upload tool.

Portal home with no document upload tool

Looking for issues and determinations leads to a confusing and incomplete presentation in which only the current issues and determinations are listed. Clicking on the Determinations button

Selecting the determinations icon

takes claimants to a Determinations and Appeals page:

Determinations and appeals for a claimant

This listing, however, only provides current determinations and appeals. Determinations that have NOT been appealed but which are still denying benefits are NOT listed here.

The issue listed at the top for each of these determinations, moreover, do NOT at all describe the initial determinations themselves.

Furthermore, there may be other determinations for which no initial determination was issued. Click on View Determinations History to see what other determinations might be connected to you.

Click on View Determinations History

Here, more determinations connected to you may appear:

Determinations history for a claimant

In this screenshot, there are now four determinations rather than just the two that have been appealed.

The one for the week 26/2019 indicates that a quit in 2019 is NOT disqualifying because the claimant subsequently earned enough wages to satisfy any disqualification connected to that quit. There is no initial determination connected to this listing. And, there are two for week 15/2020: one disqualifying the claimant issued on 10/28/2020 (which per the Determinations screen above we can see that the claimant has appealed) and another issued on 7/24/2020 finding the claimant eligible for PUA benefits. Finally, there is a determination for week 31/2020 that was issued on 12/31/2020 finding that the claimant quit a job and so is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits (per the Determinations screen above, we can see that this determination also was appealed).

These are NOT all the documents available to this claimant, however. The Document History option detailed below remains the only viable option for seeing all the documents connected to an unemployment claim.

The appeals option is problematic as well. Selecting Appeals

Selecting the appeals option on the new portal

will only show the determinations that can still be appealed. Determinations for which an appeal would be late are NOT listed.

No determinations that can be appealed are listed

To find an appeal online for an older initial determination, claimants have to click on the Find Determination button, enter the number of the initial determination they want to appeal, and then click on still another Find Determination button.

Enter initial determination number and click on the find button

The initial determination number is the number in the upper left corner of initial determination.

Layout of an initial Determination explained

Since most claimants do not track these initial determination numbers, this requirement for an initial determination number for finding an old initial determination creates a major roadblock for filing any late appeals.

Finally, the claim status messages remain as confusing as ever. These messages are generated when a Department staffer does anything involving an unemployment claim. They do NOT reflect the actual legal status of the claim.

Misleading claim status message

Claimants should continue to ignore these messages because they often mean nothing and can actually be misleading.

So, the portal’s usefulness remains limited to two tasks: a claimant’s document history and a claimant’s benefit payment history. Here is how those tasks work with the new portal.

Document history

Your Document History will list some of the important documents connected to your claim, and it provides a central location for finding those documents on your portal.

Claimant document history

To get to your Document History, follow these steps.

1. Click on the Menu button on the upper-right corner of the screen.

Selecting Menu in the upper right hand corner

2. After clicking on Menu, you will see a screen similar to the following:

All menu options revealed after clicking on the Menu button

3. Click on the Document History option.

Document History option to click on

4. The Document History screen is then revealed.

Claimant document history

5. Click on the View button next to each document to see that specific document. Notice that initial determinations, appeals, appeal confirmations, and telephone hearing packets — labeled as Telephone Instructions — are available here.

Benefit payment history (updated 12 Aug. 2021)

In contrast to the document history process, claimants’ access to their benefit payment history has been improved.

1. Click on the Print Benefit Statements icon.

Print benefit statements icon selected

2. The following screen is presented to you.

Print benefit summary screen

3. Make sure the checkbox By choosing to create a formal summary, I acknowledge that it will include personal infromation such as my name and Social Security Number is checked and that Create a PDF document is selected.

Print benefit summary with options selected

4. Click on the Create Document button.

Click on the Create Document button

5. A PDF printout of your benefit claim and payment history will appear on your screen or be prompted to be downloaded.

The problem with these benefit year printouts is that they are limited to a calendar year going back 12 months from the current date. Because many of the issues now being “decided” are more than a year old, the benefit payment history available here in this PDF fails to include the actual weeks when you first started claiming benefits.

To get those earlier weeks, follow these directions.

1. Click on My UI Summary.

Click on My UI Summary

2. At the next screen, click on the More Info link.

Click on the More Info link

3. At the “Benefit Payment History” screen, change the time period to either All Payments or Calendar, where you select the time period for the payments.

Selecting dates for Calendar period

4. Your benefit payment history for the time period selected will then appear

A sample benefit payment history that includes 2020 and 2021 weekly certifications

5. To save a copy of this screen, take a screen snapshot.

  • Macintosh computers: Press the CMD and Shift and 3 keys to save the image into a file on your Desktop. Or, press the CMD and Shift and 4 keys to draw a rectangle around the portion of the screen you want to save.
  • Windows computers: Press Alt and PrtScn keys to save a PNG file of the current window inside your Pictures folder.
  • Apple iPhones: On older iPhones, press both the Home and Top/Power buttons at the same time to save a PNG picture in your photos library. On newer iPhones that lack a home button, press both the Volume Up and Top/Power buttons at the same time to save a PNG picture in your photos library.
  • Newer Android phones: Press either the Power and Volume Down buttons at the same time or press and hold the Power button for a few seconds before tapping on the screen. Look for the screenshot in your photos library.

Sending a PDF document via e-mail

Do NOT send any PDF documents via e-mail message that have confidential information like social security numbers or bank account information. Initial claims/applications and telephone hearing packets/instructions almost always have raw social security numbers visible to anyone.

  • On a smart phone: when viewing the PDF, click on the share button and then select the e-mail option. Make sure to then write in an e-mail address and a subject.
  • On a desktop: download the PDF document, start up your e-mail program, and then attach the PDF to a new e-mail address that you are sending to someone (make sure to fill out a subject and to whom the message is being sent).

Sending a document securely via Signal — added 12 Aug. 2021

For those documents that have confidential information — initial claims, hearing packets (labeled telephone instructions on the portal) — Signal provides a way.

You first need to set Signal up on an Apple or Android smartphone by linking the Signal app on that smartphone to your phone number. Once set up, you can then use Signal to send secure documents to another Signal user — which I am under my phone number — on your smart phone or your computer: Mac, Windows, and even Linux.

To send a file on your smartphone via Signal, follow these steps.

1. Get the file actual file showing on your screen.

2. Then click on the three dots that appear on the screen or press a finger on the document and hold until the sharing screen appears.

Selecting a file to send by pressing on the three dots menu or pressing and holding on the document image

3. A sharing window should appear. Look for and press on the Signal icon or look for an option to send or share via Signal and press on that option.

Selecting Signal for sharing a file

4. You are then taken to the Signal app where you need to select a recipient and then to press the send button.

Selecting a recipient in Signal and sending the file

5. The file is sent!

With Signal, you can send documents that have your social security number securely to a trusted person, like your legal representative.

How to navigate Wisconsin’s unemployment portal

Update (31 March 2021 and 30 April 2021): With the Department’s new portal, these instructions have been updated with a new, how-to-navigate-the-portal post. Please go to those new instructions, as the guide here is now outdated.

After logging in to your web portal for unemployment benefits at https://my.unemployment.wisconsin.gov/, here are some helpful guides about how to navigate this portal and find relevant information.

Viewing initial determinations

Unemployment issues are at first decided via initial determinations, so these documents are what you need to read carefully when they are issued (as noted already, delays in processing unemployment claims are monumental right now, so do not expect these initial determinations to be issued soon after filing your unemployment claim).

To see the initial determinations connected to your claim, do NOT click on the View ALL Determinations option that appears on the main screen (this option only takes you to a listing of determination that may or may not be complete and which may or may not be available to you).

Do NOT select the View ALL Determinations option

Rather, go to the menu under My Information and select the Document History option:

Document History menu

You will then see all the documents the Department currently has available to you:

Documents available for viewing

To see the actual determination, select the View option next to the document described as a determination to see a PDF version of that document. The creation date will tell you when the Department issued that document or initial determination. Here is a description of some of the key information on an initial determination:

Initial Determination labeled

Viewing what benefits have been paid (or not paid)

To see which weeks have been paid unemployment benefits, go to Print Benefit Summary under My Information.

Print Benefits Summary

You will then be prompted for how to create this benefits summary display: web page or PDF.

Seeing your benefit payments

Select the Creat a PDF document option and select the checkbox for By choosing to create a formal summary, I acknowledge that it will include personal information such as my name and Social Security Number.

Then, click on the Create Document button. A PDF document detailing your benefit payments will appear. On the second page of that PDF document, you will something like the following for your own benefits payment history:

Benefits Payment History

Note: Select PDF document rather than HTML page (aka, a web page), as the web page version will include a DWD watermark that makes much of the page unreadable.

Note: You do NOT need a printer to see this document. The PDF document should be viewable on any computer or smart phone.

Sending a PDF document via e-mail

Do NOT send any PDF documents via e-mail message that have confidential information like social security numbers or bank account information.

  • On a smart phone: when viewing the PDF, click on the share button and then select the e-mail option. Make sure to then write in an e-mail address and a subject.
  • On a desktop: download the PDF document, start up your e-mail program, and then attach the PDF to a new e-mail address that you are sending to someone (make sure to fill out a subject and to whom the message is being sent).

Feds release two important advisories about claimant access

On Friday, October 2nd, the Department of Labor issued two advisories — officially called program letters — about maintaining claimant’s access to their unemployment benefits.

The first concerns the due process protections claimants have when charged with concealment. In particular, this advisory spells out the requirement that whenever unemployment benefits are denied:

[T]he individual must receive a written copy of that determination and must have the right to appeal the denial. States are not required to conduct a full, formal evidentiary appeal hearing before determining that an individual was overpaid, but they must offer the individual an opportunity to know and rebut the information in fact finding before issuing a decision that the individual is not eligible and was overpaid.

UIPL 01-16 (1 October 2015) at 4. Furthermore, once a claim for unemployment benefits is underway, payment of those benefits cannot be stopped until a determination about the claimant’s eligibility has been issued.

If the state agency cannot make an eligibility determination before the date of a timely payment, the state agency “presumes the claimant’s continued eligibility until it makes a determination otherwise.” Additionally, a state must inform individuals that the pending eligibility issue may affect their entitlement to [unemployment compensation] and may result in an overpayment.

Id. And, in that investigation about the claimant’s continued eligibility for unemployment benefits, the unemployment agency must independently verify any computer match information casting doubt on the claimant’s continued eligibility, notify the claimant about the doubts on his or her continued eligibility, and give the claimant time to respond to the accusation.

States may not make determinations of overpayments and/or fraud using automated systems without the input of agency staff. The individual must also be informed of the information received as a result of the match with the Federal database and given the opportunity to be heard before a determination of an overpayment may be issued.

Id. at 5. This specific statement that fraud determinations CANNOT be based on automated systems seems specifically targeted against the fraud by algorithm process currently taking place in Michigan. The advisory closes with the requirements needed for any fraud notice.

[A] fraud determination notice must be sufficient to allow the individual to know the potential penalties or other consequences of a fraud determination as well as his or her rights with respect to an appeal. The individual must be provided additional information on the appeal process including the right to have representation; to present testimony and other evidence relative to the appeal; to subpoena witnesses and records; and to be apprised of the consequences of failing to attend an appeal if one is requested. Communications must be in plain language and using methods that ensure the communication is most likely to be successful for all populations, including individuals with limited English proficiency.

Id. at 6. Given the push in Wisconsin for pursuing concealment charges against claimants for claim-filing mistakes, this advisory applies with equal force to Wisconsin.

The second advisory concerns preventing program discrimination because of age, national origin, or language proficiency and making sure that new, computerized filing and notification procedures are as user-friendly as possible. This lengthy memorandum begins by spelling out the legal requirements for open access to claims information.

[S]tate UI agencies must ensure that use of new technologies and systems for administering UI programs and providing services do not create barriers (e.g., procedural, technological, or informational) that may prevent individuals from accessing UI benefits, such as by denying them a reasonable opportunity to establish their eligibility. The U.S. Department of Labor (Department) has determined that “access” for purposes of conforming to Section 303(a)(1) of the [Social Security Act] means individuals’ ability to complete, submit, and obtain information about their initial and continued claims, appeals, reemployment services, and any other information, program functions, or services available for all claimants.

* * *

Thus, while states may offer claimants a variety of methods to receive information, the content of a written determination, whether it is a letter mailed to the claimant or provided in an electronic medium, must comply with the requirements in the Standard for Claim Determination specified [in Employment Security Manual, Part V, Section 6013.C.1.c.].

UIPL 02-16 (1 October 2015) at 3-4.

Electronic-only communication requirements may well run afoul of these non-discrimination requirements.

The nondiscrimination laws that apply to state UI agencies prohibit discrimination based on both disparate treatment — intentionally treating members of protected groups differently based on their protected status — and disparate impact — the use of policies or practices that are neutral on their face, but have a disproportionate impact on members of some protected groups. In addition, as detailed below, regulations implementing these laws prohibit states from establishing policies or procedures that, while not directly barring access to benefits or services for individuals who have disabilities and/or are [Limited English Proficient], indirectly prevent or limit access. The use of a website and web-based technology as the sole or primary way for individuals to obtain information about UI benefits or to file UI claims may have the effect of denying or limiting access to members of protected groups in violation of Federal nondiscrimination law.

* * *

States may offer individuals the option of receiving the information, services, etc., discussed in this guidance via electronic methods, but may not require that individuals communicate only through electronic means. Such policies unduly restrict program access, as not all individuals have the ability or capacity to communicate electronically.

Id. at 4-5. This advisory then goes into detail about what these non-discrimination requirements mean and describes the numerous steps that state agencies need to take. Of particular note are the following requirements and objectives:

Use of free, web-based translation services (also known as machine translation software) is not sufficient to ensure that the translation is appropriate and conveys the same meaning as the English version. Information about effective translation resources may be found at: [Lost in Translation.]

* * *

State UI agencies should also ensure that web-based claims filing systems also maintain a system for receiving and addressing complaints from limited English proficient persons and persons with a disability. This includes, but is not limited to, providing in-language notice regarding how to file an online complaint about delayed or denied service resulting from language barriers.

* * *

States may promote on-line filing as a primary method of filing UI claims, but they may not have policies and operational practices that make on-line filing the exclusive method of filing and certifying UI claims. As with persons with disabilities or those with [Limited English Proficiency], or older individuals, states must offer an alternative option for accessing information and benefits, such as by telephone and/or in person, in a manner that ensures equal access for persons unable to access or use a web-based system in order to avoid disparate impact on other protected groups. Further, states must broadly and conspicuously disseminate information about alternative access options in ways that ensure that people who may need to use such options are aware of the options. State UI agencies must ensure that use of new technologies and systems for administering UI programs and providing services do not create barriers (e.g., procedural, technological, or informational) that may prevent individuals from accessing UI benefits, such as by denying them a reasonable opportunity to establish their eligibility.

* * *

State UI agencies must also take reasonable steps to ensure that, if technology or other issues discussed in this UIPL interfere with claimants’ access, they have established alternative methods of access, such as telephonic and/or in-person options. The alternative access points must be communicated clearly in a manner that reaches the population that may need to use them. The processes the state UI agency uses to offer alternative methods of access must be documented in the agency’s policy documents and operating procedures. In addition, a state must train UI and American Job Center staff on the alternative methods of access to ensure that claimants and others who experience challenges are properly directed to alternative access options so that they may be served in a timely manner. Excessive delays experienced by potential claimants as they are referred to alternative access methods can result in a denial of access to services, in conflict with Federal UI law and nondiscrimination law requirements.

* * *

Action Required. State Administrators must:

  1. Ensure that processes exist or are implemented to provide all claimants access to UI benefits as discussed in this UIPL;
  2. Disseminate this guidance to appropriate state agency staff, including the state’s [Equal Opportunity] Officer;
  3. Ensure that state [Equal Opportunity] Officers are involved early in all appropriate information technology modernization and business process reengineering plans to promote the full integration of equal opportunity requirements into agency technology plans; and
  4. Work with state [Equal Opportunity] Officers to evaluate the avenues available to the public to participate in the UI process to help ensure access to everyone including individuals with disabilities and [Limited English Proficient] individuals.

Id. at 9, 10, 12, 13, and 14.

The recent developments in Florida and the push in Wisconsin for similar obstacles to filing unemployment claims have been going on for some time now. See, e.g., the posts about job searches changes and waivers. These advisories, however, demonstrate for the first time that federal authorities are pushing back. Stay tuned to see what happens next. The National Employment Law Project has declared: “By staking out a strong enforcement position in support of fairness and accessibility, we believe that the Department [of Labor] has taken a critical first step toward ensuring that unemployment insurance will be there when America’s workers need it, no matter who you are or where you live.”