Ask The Lawyer By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq. NOTICE OF DETERMINATION’ FROM THE UNEMPLOYMENT AGENCY? ACT FAST!

NOTICE OF DETERMINATION’ FROM THE UNEMPLOYMENT AGENCY? ACT FAST!

QUESTION:  I recently received three letters from the Unemployment Insurance Agency. One is called a ‘Notice of Determination,’ another is “Weeks of Overpayment’ and the third is called a ‘Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Monetary Redetermination.” It looks like they want me to pay back over $10,000 in benefits, but I don’t know why, or what I am supposed to do.

 

ANSWER:     Any time you receive a letter you don’t understand from the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA), get help! It doesn’t have to be from an attorney (although that could be a good idea); you could start by trying to call the Agency, or by talking to someone who is skilled with complex language and legal documents. But you will not have much time to figure it out. The Agency gives you just 30 days to get a response back to the UIA. Mailing it on the 30th day won’t cut it; your answer has to actually be received by the Agency by the deadline. Miss the deadline without “good cause” (a term the Agency interprets very narrowly), and you lose your right to protest the finding.

A Notice of Determination states that the Agency has made a decision in relation to your claim. The Agency will usually reference the section of the Michigan Employment and Security Act (MES) that it alleges was violated, and will also state in one word or two the basis of the claimant’s ineligibility. For instance, a reference to “ability” might mean the Agency found the claimant was not able to work; “availability” might indicate the Agency found that the claimant was not available for full-time work (maybe the claimant was a full-time student, for example). But these micro-definitions don’t do much for many claimants, who are left with no idea how or why the Agency reached its decision.

Sometimes, the Notice of Determination will state that misrepresentation is involved. That is, the Agency believes the person who received the benefits either deliberately provided the Agency with false information or deliberately withheld relevant information in order to receive benefits to which they were not entitled. An example of misrepresentation might be failing to report income earned from a part-time job while collecting unemployment. Claimants who have misrepresented facts to the Agency are not only asked to repay the benefits they received, but may also be asked to pay a penalty equal to 1.5x the total benefit amount. (If you owed $10,000, you could be subject to a penalty of $15,000, for a total of $25,000.)

Recently, many Notices raise the issue of misrepresentation, but concludes by saying the claimant’s disqualification does not fall under the section of the statute dealing with misrepresentation (no penalties!), but still finds that the claimant must repay benefits received.

A Monetary Redetermination is a letter written to inform you that the Agency has redetermined your eligibility for benefits or the amount of your benefits. If you received both a Notice of Determination and a Monetary Redetermination, you might want to read them in tandem. The Monetary Redetermination usually states more specifically why the Agency has decided you are not eligible for benefits. In the case of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance – a special program during the pandemic that allows people who are not normally eligible for unemployment to receive benefits – it could be, for example, that the Agency has found the reason you are unemployed is not related to Covid-19, making you ineligible for PUA.

The final document you received, the Weeks of Overpayment letter, lists all the benefits you received for which the Agency believes you were ineligible and were therefore “overpaid.”

If you disagree with the Agency’s decisions, you can do so either online through your Mi-WAM account or by letter. Instructions on how to file a protest or appeal are contained in your Notice of Determination letter and in the Monetary Redetermination letter. Anecdotal evidence suggests that claimants have better luck appealing or protesting via a faxed or mailed protest or appeal than via Mi-WAM.

Forms for a protest or appeal are available online. The forms provide a very small space for you to state the reasons for your protest or appeal. If you need to say more than a few sentences in explanation (and most people do), you can tell the Agency to look at an attached letter and supporting documentation. Supporting documentation is important: The Agency wants to see documentary evidence in support of your statement; it will not accept your say-so. Documents could include tax returns, W-2 forms, letters from prospective employers, letters from a doctor or physician, etc.

A protest of a Notice of Determination is decided by the Unemployment Insurance Agency; if the Agency decides against you, you will be able to appeal its decision to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). An appeal of a Monetary Redetermination goes directly to an ALJ, who decides the issue after a hearing (usually by telephone) at which the claimant is a witness.

If the Agency claims you owe a large amount – like the $10,000 in your case – it may be worth the expense of hiring an attorney, or at least consulting with one. An attorney will usually interview you and ask you for help securing needed documents, and may also request your file from the Agency, before reviewing the facts and the law to write a protest or appeal letter on your behalf. Fees can vary, depending on the issues posed by your case and the attorney you choose.

The lawyers at GWINN LEGAL PLLC are experienced attorneys and are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call for a free initial telephone consultation about your legal needs. For consideration of your questions in our web column, please submit your inquiry on the “Contact Us” page of our website at www.gwinnlegal.com.

Information provided on “Ask the Lawyer” is current as of the date of publication. Laws and their interpretation are subject to change. The material provided through “Ask the Lawyer” is informational only; it should not be considered legal advice. Submitting a question to “Ask the Lawyer” does not create an attorney-client relationship between the person submitting the question and GWINN LEGAL PLLC. To view previous columns, please visit our website.

ASK THE LAWYER
By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
GWINN LEGAL PLLC
900 Wilshire Drive, Suite 104
Troy, MI 48084
(248) 970-0310
(248) 970-0311 facsimile
daniel@gwinnlegal.com
www.gwinnlegal.com

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