Wisconsin Watch describes the continuing delays and denials by the Department in approving PUA benefits for SSDI recipients.

In this article, the delays that now stretch on for months as well as denials are described in detail.

WPR and Wisconsin Watch spoke to nine disability recipients who applied for PUA months ago. DWD as of Tuesday had yet to deliver on eight of their claims. But Wickman [the only one of the nine to receive any benefits] on Tuesday [that is, yesterday] woke up to six months of backpay in her bank account, following a four-month wait — capped by two weeks of lengthy phone calls, technology glitches and 32 emails to agency administrators.

The article does a good job describing the delays and denials the disabled are continuing to experience.

But, the article seems to accept at face value the explanations put forward by the Department for why these delays and denials are not really its fault.

The agency employs 1970s-era technology to process unemployment insurance claims, and PUA claims are particularly taxing on an already backlogged system, [DWD spokesman Ben Jedd] said.

“The payment of PUA is extremely manual and depends on qualifying for the program, addressing any associated eligibility issues, and how quickly that person files weekly claims after their PUA (qualification) is established,” Jedd wrote in an email.

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Jedd said his agency will prioritize claims from SSDI recipients who were already denied regular unemployment aid. But the agency does not track how many PUA claims it has processed from people on disability.

DWD can’t just rubberstamp those claims, Jedd added. Staffers must ensure applicants meet a range of eligibility requirements. But that human review is not foolproof, applicants say.

REALLY? Mistakes being made because the system is not foolproof is an acceptable explanation?

Let’s look at one of the claimants featured in the article: Duane Adams. He applied for regular unemployment benefits and was denied because he receives SSDI benefits. He applied for PUA benefits, and nothing happened with that application for months.

Then, on July 27th, the Department gets word that it can now pay out PUA benefits to the disabled. Mr. Adams even received a form letter from Sec. Frostman apologizing for the delay and encouraging him to apply for PUA benefits if he had not already done so.

But, that same week, Mr. Adams also received an initial determination denying his claim for PUA benefits, explaining:

The claimant has not exhausted all unemployment insurance, pandemic, emergency unemployment compensation, and extended benefits payable for the benefit year ending 05/02/2020.

In other words, according to the Department Mr. Adams cannot receive PUA benefits until he has received all of the regular unemployment benefits he cannot under state law actually receive. Huh? According to the Department, Mr. Adams is NOT eligible for regular unemployment benefits in the first place because of his disability. How can he be expected to exhaust regular unemployment benefits that he cannot legally receive? This denial makes absolutely no sense. Legally, it is idiotic.

So, previously the Department was discriminating against the disabled. Now, the Department is making idiotic decisions in still denying their claims.

And, Mr. Adams is not alone. Other disabled folks are being denied their PUA claims for the same reason — failing to exhaust their regular unemployment benefits — or because they do not have a Covid-19 related reason for their layoff despite losing work because of the pandemic.

So, as the article makes clear, the Department is NOT following through on what happened on July 27th: the disabled are NOT receiving PUA benefits even after the policy that denied those claims has changed. De jure discrimination may no longer be Department policy, but de facto discrimination continues.

As evident in the article, reporters should NOT be accepting claims about the process not being fool-proof while also not wanting to “rubber-stamp” claims in light of a heavy workload. The “carefulness” being claimed by the Department is in reality a defense of idiocy. And, when confronted by idiotic decision-making, most people conclude the idiocy is hiding something more sinister. In this case, the idiocy is emblematic of continued hostility towards the disabled.

If there is some other viable explanation for continuing to deny claims for idiotic reasons other than discrimination, then the Department needs to be pushed to provide that explanation. As it stands now, the only viable explanation is continued discrimination against the disabled.

Putting the disabled in a catch-22 is exactly the kind of double-standard that has been the earmark of discrimination for centuries. All of us should know better by now to push back almost immediately against such double-standards.

And, certainly Wisconsin should not be continuing with this discrimination against the disabled. That this discrimination is continuing is the story.