RICHMOND, Va. -- The CBS6 Problem Solvers have told you about thousands of Virginians who struggled to get the Virginia Employment Commission to sort out their claims during the pandemic.
Recently, dozens of viewers have contacted us about getting the VEC to sort out what they say is a fraud, that someone is stealing their benefits, or even creating an account that they never applied for.
It's impacted a local veterinarian, who despite filing a fraud alert many times with the VEC last year, has now been hit with a tax bill.
And worse, the VEC is now demanding thousands of dollars from her employer.
“I got a call on my day off from our director of human resources, 'Dr. Ivey do you need to tell us something? I got a letter from the VEC,” said Dr. Angela Ivey about that call from the Richmond SPCA’s HR department.
Ivey got a shock that early December day: her employer was asking if she had applied for unemployment benefits from the Virginia Employment Commission.
“She then immediately called her contact to say no, we are the last employer, a still current employee for 17 years, but had to leave a message so she didn't think any more of it because then I jumped on it,” said Ivey.
That first notification began an exasperating journey through the VEC’s online and phone systems that only this week seems closer to resolution. For Ivey, at least.
While the SPCA alerted the VEC immediately about the fraud as did Dr. Ivey, she has to date put no fewer than five fraud alerts on that fake account in her name.
But nothing has made a difference as a recent letter from the VEC - which repeatedly warned Ivey to safeguard her VEC debit card because fraud was rampant - showed.
“[The system] gives me another confirmation that I had filed it,” said Ivey. “Then I looked and felt a little bit better because both ID numbers for me were the same. So it recognized who I was with the information I was putting in. But then I got a letter from the VEC saying that I needed to be applying for jobs. And to let them know if I what the job was applying for because they took fraud seriously.”
While that and the 'Way 2 Go" debit card she received may have seemed amusing, the next notice - a 1099 tax form from the VEC - about taxes she would owe, was anything but funny.
“I still had not heard back from them,” said Ivey. “So I filed another, my third, fraud alert on my account, after the last one, which was December 22. And then, lo and behold, in January I get a 1099-G [form] for the funds that they provided me that I need to now let the IRS know and include on my taxes.”
Ivey says she did everything the VEC asks potential victims of fraud to do and multiple times. And still, she says, the IRS now thinks she got money from Virginia’s unemployment system.
“So I've now done police reports with the county that I live in,” Ivey said. “I've done all the fraudulent things that VEC recommends. I put fraud alerts on all three of my credit reports. And so the amount of work that I'm doing, it seems to me, is insanely ridiculous. Because the work should be being done by the Employment Commission, who in early December knew that the claim on my account was fraudulent.”
That is work she said which would be better spent on saving cats and dogs.
But perhaps the final blow came this week: the SPCA received what Ivey calls a "pay up or else" notice from the VEC, saying it owes the system for their “employee” who had applied for benefits.
"If you could speak to Commissioner Carrie Roth, who's been on the job for a month or so no what would you tell her?" I asked Ivey. "That I am blessed to not need my tax refund,” Ivey said. “But anybody that really was in a position that did get unemployment benefits in 2021 that's now got an incorrect 1099-G, please, by all means, figure it out!"
Ivey says she got a reassuring call from the VEC this week, after we alerted them to this story, and she says she is hopeful that an amended 1099-G, showing $0.00 paid to her, is on the way.
“I feel like after watching your stories, we're just the tip of the iceberg, that something bigger and deeper is going on,” Ivey said. “So, I don't need an apology. Just fix it, because I now can't file my taxes until I get the amended 1099.”
But she says the SPCA, inexplicably, could still be on the hook for the thousands of dollars in stolen benefits.
I asked VEC spokesperson Joyce Fogg how it could be that the VEC is now telling Dr. Ivey she will get a corrected 1099 tax form because of fraud on her account but that her employer, the SPCA, is still somehow responsible for those benefits.
It amounts to about $4,000 stolen through fraud. Money, Ivey says, that the SPCA does not have to spare.
Fogg did not respond.
And an update: Ty Jackson the I-T worker whose VEC account was fraudulently hacked, says a contact at the VEC insists they are working to resolve his claim, but now, almost four months since his problems began, not much progress has been made. You may recall despite the VEC’s Joyce Fogg told me the day his story aired, that “his case was resolved.”
As for Brenda Ingram, who had worked under a contract at the Department of Corrections, she tells me the VEC has her filing the same documents she has already sent them multiple times and that she has still not spoken with a deputy.