HOLLAND, Mich. -- In late 2013, Diane Jansen was let go from her job and started collecting unemployment. But after receiving just over $700 in benefits, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency told her she had failed to report her severance pay and demanded she repay the benefits plus a $2,900 penalty.
Jansen said she did report the severance, but instead of putting up a fight she paid $3,600 to the UIA.
"I felt fear. I was unemployed. So what I did was pay it back. I felt like that was my only option at the time."
Attorney Dan Goeman said, "When she found a new job and went back to work, she thought her troubles were over."
That wasn't the case. In March 2015, Jansen said the agency told her she committed fraud and that she failed to respond to notices sent to an online account in a timely fashion. The agency then demanded another $6,800. So she hired Goeman to straighten things out. He did and managed to get her a hearing with an administrative law judge. Goeman won her case.
"The judge issued orders that said she hadn't engaged in fraud. The judge issued orders that said she was entitled to her benefits. The judge issued orders that said the state of Michigan unemployment agency is required to stop any and all ongoing collection efforts. And what did the state of Michigan do? Ignored 'em," Goeman said.
The attorney said not only did the state fail to return her $3,600, the unemployment agency continued to demand the extra $6,800 with fines and penalties.
Jansen and her attorney said the UIA ignored the judge's orders. The problems continued into March 2016.
"Everybody else has to follow these strict laws. Why does the agency get to ignore judgements and still come after and ask me for more money?" Jansen asked.
So she reached out to the FOX 17 Problem Solvers for help, and we reached out to the agency on her behalf. It didn’t take long for them to get in touch with Jansen.
"They contacted me a little over a week after we did the first interview," Jansen said.
Goeman said, "We got somebody's attention. You certainly got somebody's attention because all of a sudden my client gets their settlement check, and she gets assurances from the state that they are going to, in fact, cease and desist."
The agency has stated that it stopped using a computer system (MiDAS) to determine fraud and that staff members now make the final determination. Meantime, there are two lawsuits against the UIA in state and federal in court.