The federal lawsuit challenging the State of Michigan’s administration will certainly take months or years to wind through the courts. The State has not yet responded and no ruling has yet to be made on the merits. Regardless, it is so important that Michigan’s unemployed know that people are working for their due process rights in the UIA system; and that baseless, robotic, accusations of fraud are not necessarily the result of anything they have done wrong.
Fox 17 out of Grand Rapids should be applauded for the series of stories spearheaded by reporter Darren Cunningham on the problems with the robotic computer system adopted by Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency in recent years. I was recently proud to sit down with Cunningham for an interview on the topic and delighted that this matter of public concern is finally seeing the light of day.
What unemployment claimants can do if accused of fraud:
1. Claimants must appeal a determination or redetermination within 30 days in order to to seek a redetermination in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). Even if deadlines have been missed, a claimant pursue an appeal of an Agency fraud determination and show “good cause” for a late appeal.
2. The fraud accusation itself means that claimants are not eligible to for free advocate assistance from the agency. However, claimants have a right to represent themselves in an ALJ hearing, unemployment claimants also have a right to seek private representation from an advocate or attorney experienced in unemployment benefits issues.
3. Claimants should request all the case files from the Agency as soon as possible. Although this is often not easy, claimants should obtain the entire file from Michigan’s MIDAS system. The MIDAS system is different from the MiWam computer screens claimants may have accessed before. Both systems contain important information needed to fight the fraud accusation.
4. Under new rules some administrative law judges will require exhibits to be submitted days in advance of the hearing. Claimants should review every hearing notice carefully and make sure to submit any exhibits they will want to use in advance of the deadlines set.
5. Don’t give up. Claimants should do everything they can to seek redeterminations and appeals of each and every UIA ruling. Oftentimes, robotic agency accusations can only be corrected once a real person is involved to review the record. That review may only happen if timely appeals are pursued. Even late requests may be heard on a showing of “good cause.”
The recent media coverage may help to ease the shock for Michigan’s unemployed who find themselves accused of government fraud allegedly based on nothing more than an automated data mining expedition. The personal toll of such an accusation can be devastating to unemployment claimants and their families. The news that they are not alone may ease the burden and might provide at least a glimmer of hope for Michigan citizens navigating fraud accusations by the Unemployment Insurance Agency.