Yet Another Spectacularly Organized American Institution

, , , , , , | Working | July 30, 2020

After being laid off from my job after nineteen years of working for the same company, I found myself bewildered, confused, and completely scared that my regular income was being cut off.

So, taking the time I would have spent working, I made sure to do all the steps you’re supposed to when you lose a job suddenly, including filing for unemployment.

In my state/country, unemployment tax is taken from your paycheck. I’m in my late forties and have never applied for unemployment, so in my eyes, I’m due some back, right?

I read all the rules and even did an online chat with the state’s unemployment department to make sure I was doing everything right. I filled out all their paperwork and soon began receiving my unemployment, which was maybe half of the pay I had been receiving but was better than nothing.

Everything was fine for two months while I got an updated resume and began searching for a new position. Then, I started getting letters in the mail threatening to cut off my unemployment benefit payments and perhaps make me pay back what they’d already given me because they had received information from somewhere — they wouldn’t tell me where — that I was receiving a pension.

Nope. I never signed up for one, so I didn’t have one. I told them.

Then, I received another letter saying they knew I had a pension, and unless I gave them the information about this pension, blah, blah, blah.

I told them again that nope, I didn’t have one.

Then, I got the letter saying my payments were being stopped because I couldn’t prove I didn’t have a pension — the old proving a negative argument.

If I disagreed, I could have a formal hearing. So, I said yes.

Six weeks later, I still haven’t received any payment and I am in the hearing.

The hearing officer is going over all the information they have, marking this page as an exhibit, that page as an exhibit, and so on and so forth.

I remain quiet as this is a legal hearing and, having seen their exhibits, I have a simple answer for her.

When it’s my turn to speak on my behalf, I say simply, “That exhibit you said you sent me? I never received it.”

It was a letter that, according to her, I would have simply check-marked that I never signed up for a pension and do not receive one, and they would have been satisfied.

She seems to be completely flummoxed and begins giving all sorts of excuses as to why and how every other communication reached me but this one crucial piece of paper, while I silently stew.

She wraps up the hearing with a good, old-fashioned, “Well, I’ll make my decision by the end of the week.”

You do that, sweetie, I think, but instead of giving vent to my months-long frustration, I shake her hand and leave. It still takes a few weeks for them to get my past-due benefits to me, which amounts to several thousand dollars.

Note that all this happened around the holidays, a time when people generally need every dollar they can get their hands on.

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