March 3, 2021 – “There are literally thousands of people in the state who need help with their unemployment claim,” said says Victor Forberger, an unemployment attorney who has been inundated with calls for help during the COVID-19 pandemic the past year.
In this video, Forberger talks about the significant and ongoing challenges for Wisconsinites seeking unemployment benefits for job losses during the pandemic.
He notes that attorneys can play a crucial role in assisting claimants with the forms that must be filed to obtain unemployment benefits.
These days, much of Forberger’s time is spent talking to claimants about how to get basic information, and explaining the process. “The backlog was near 16,000 at the end of December of 2020,” he said. “My guess is it’s actually around 25,000 right now. That means people may be waiting 10 or 12 months just to get a hearing date.”
Forberger said the more attorneys can do, just to organize the case, makes it that much easier for the staff at the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the administrative law judges to get cases processed and decided.
“Getting somebody ready for a hearing is a crucial skill that attorneys have that most laypeople don’t,” he said.
Get More Information, Get on Board
Forberger goes into detail on the unemployment issues in Wisconsin, happening in real-time, through his Wisconsin Unemployment blog, also available on WisLawNOW, the State Bar of Wisconsin’s community of Wisconsin legal bloggers.
One of his posts shows how to navigate the Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance portal, and describes the only two ways to to get useful documents. “Too many claimants cannot get these documents without this guidance, and an attorney cannot know what is going on in a case until these documents are seen by the attorney,” Forberger said.
Forberger’s blog includes hundreds of posts since the pandemic began, addressing issues like unemployment claims questions, pandemic unemployment assistance programs, delays and problems, and access issues for the disabled.
During the pandemic, Forberger said many other states eliminated or waived many issues that needed to be adjudicated by hearing. Wisconsin did not.
“The only issue that was eliminated was the ‘four job searches per week’ issue,” he said. “That has caused a host of problems because these issues are still being litigated. On top of that, with all the different programs, it has mushroomed into a mess.”
“This is something that attorneys can directly help,” said Forberger, who encourages attorneys to step up and get involved in this crisis. ‘Literally thousands of people need help in the state.”
Forberger said he has heard from legal aid organizations, such as Legal Action of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Judicare, and they are overwhelmed with cases. Forberger noted those organizations have training available. “It’s really needed right now,” he said.
State Bar of Wisconsin Pro Bono Manager Jeff Brown also noted that lawyers can find unemployment appeals opportunities through the State Bar’s Pro Bono Portal. He said the hearings take place remotely, so no travel is required.
More Learning Opportunities
Wisconsin Employment Law, published by State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE®, includes a section on unemployment law in Wisconsin.
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