Your story on D.C.’s Disability Compensation Program (“Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Woes,” 7/22) described only part of the corruption in D.C. programs to aid those involuntarily jobless. In D.C.’s unemployment-insurance program, the dollar-by-dollar pay tables are no longer published in the Commerce Clearing House’s Unemployment Insurance Reporter. With all weekly benefit amounts, and the wages needed to receive these amounts, no longer handed to everyone when you file your claim, you may be shortchanged. (The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration hasn’t required all state employment agencies to give all new claimants this necessary information.)
Here is how you compute your benefits, according to the “Comparison of State Unemployment Insurance Laws” (www.workforcesecurity.doleta.gov, click on “Laws,” scroll to the “Comparison”):
1. Divide your highest calendar quarter of wages, shown on your “Monetary Determination,” by 26. Disregard the odd cents. This is your exact weekly benefit amount, from $50 to $359 ($309 for new claims filed before March 1, 2005).
2. Divide your total Monetary Determination wages by 2.
3. Divide the figure in 2 above by your weekly benefit amount in 1. This is the total number of weeks you may receive benefits, at least 20 but never more than 26 weeks, even if you compute more than 26 weeks. This figure should be on your Monetary Determination. (An odd amount for the final week will result in a partial payment for that week.)
D.C. law lets all claimants receive partial checks if you work part-time. Report such work. But while the “Comparison” says that 1/5 of your gross wages will be disregarded (not deducted from that week’s check), D.C. law lets you keep $20 + 1/5 wages from such work. Note: You may be disqualified for leaving any job for a bad legal reason.
The Department of Labor says that 87 percent of all first-stage appeals are supposed to be heard and decided within 30 days of the day you appeal. If 30 days (or more) have gone by and you haven’t even received a day and time for your free appeal, write to: Administrator, U.S. Department of Labor, ETA, Office of Workforce Security, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20210. Be sure to include your Social Security number. If you are in the right, someone will (quietly) help you.
Finally, the D.C. Department of Employment Services (DOES) originally reported that the “average duration” of a 26-week (maximum) claim was 32.5 weeks during the summer quarter of 2003. Another quarter averaged 26.5 weeks of benefits per person. When the Labor Department asked about this figure, the DOES said that staff hadn’t entered any new claims for a month, and that this would explain the peculiar numbers.
That D.C. employers who pay the tax on your wages for the $91 million of unemployment insurance paid by the DOES in 2004 (unemployment insurance isn’t deducted from wages in D.C., Maryland, or Virginia; “FICA” is Social Security) paid the third-highest minimum unemployment-insurance tax in 2004 of any U.S. jurisdiction, while D.C.’s average check was below the U.S. average but has the nation’s longest duration, is peculiar, indeed.