RICHMOND, Va. – Over the past year, the Virginia Jobs Commission has been sued, government-watched for its dysfunction, and has been the source of great stress for thousands of Virginians waiting for their essential benefits.
While the new governor has promised to fix the VEC, a Chesterfield man says to hurry up as he says he has been waiting for nine months.
“A lot of sleepless nights, a lot of stress between me and my wife, where she had to work many overtime hours to make up for the income I lost,” Derrick Baker said.
Baker has spent much of the last year trying to get his claim with the Virginia Employment Commission redressed.
Before the IT worker was laid off last April, he received an out-of-the-box notice from the VEC that someone using his name had filed a grievance.
So weeks later, when he really needed to file an application with the VEC, he hit a roadblock.
“They had a fraudulent claim [in my name] in March,” Baker said. “I filed a legitimate claim in April and it’s related which it shouldn’t be. So I had to go through the process of proving who I am by sending in documents, pretty much until a DNA sample, and anything related to it.
After countless calls that came to nothing, he thought he had finally proven his identity. But his six weeks of benefits never arrived.
“So I got a letter saying my claim was legitimate, and everything was fine, and we’re good to go,” Baker said. “And then shortly after that, maybe about a month or two, something came from one of the judges, saying that I hadn’t provided documentation to validate who I was in time. When c is clearly in my records.
Baker therefore had to file an appeal which, three months later, has still not been resolved.
He even sent emails to VEC Commissioner Ellen Marie Hess and Northam Governor’s Director of “Workforce Development” Megan Healy.
They didn’t answer.
Things got worse when VEC was shut down for its much-delayed upgrade in November, when the same scammer somehow got back into their account.
“I’m waiting for my appeal to be answered, but the person who fraudulently took over my account has access and can see everything on the portal after the upgrade,” Baker said. “I reported it. So they gave me a new PIN. But then they said, ‘We don’t use ID numbers anymore. We use phone numbers. I’m like, why would you use a phone number when you gave me a document that I have to provide the pin code for me to get any kind of assistance?
For Baker, who has worked with computer systems for more than 20 years, the experience revealed VEC’s biggest vulnerability: the way it verifies users. He says the new and improved VEC system is still woefully inadequate.
“We’re talking about a three-decade-old problem, and you’re still using a three-decade-old verification system, you know, asking me the security questions,” Baker said. “What was your school mascot? What was your mother’s maiden name? Instead of going with the two-factor verification that everyone uses now? VEC doesn’t use it.
As he waits for the benefits that put a dent in his finances nine months ago, Baker says the hacker and the VEC have both caused lasting damage.
“I liken it to buying a house: you remodel it, you upgrade it and everything,” Baker said. “But you forget one thing: you don’t change the locks, so everyone who had access to the house still has access to your house. And that’s what the VEC has to do. Just because you updated it, made it look pretty, your verification process still needs to be reworked.
VEC spokeswoman Joyce Fogg said via email that while she could not comment on individual cases, someone would contact Baker.
Sure enough, the morning our story aired, he received a call from the VEC saying his appeal was being processed.
As for two- or multi-factor authentication, Virginia Information Technologies Agency spokesperson Stephanie Benson told CBS6 it’s in place for state agencies, but a user would have to configure it themselves. same.
Baker claims it was never offered by the VEC on its site or the ID.me app.