California’s Employment Development Disaster Continues

I’ve worked at the agency that is the posterchild of government waste, fraud, and fiduciary abuse for almost two years now. This agency is not only irredeemably broken but it’s so far down the sewer (or rabbit hole) depending on which metaphor you wish to employ that it seems beyond reform.

Here is a partial list of systemic problems that no one seems interesting in fixing.

First and foremost, old claims never die, they simply loose their appeal. What I mean by this is that both the claimant—person that filed the claim—or any random staff person at EDD can revive a claim, no matter how old. Like your stereotypical B Movie, there is really no such thing as a dead claim. There is always room for a sequel. I have seen claims as old as ten years be brought back to life again either at the request of staff or the claimant. Claims that died due to lack of authentic documents or California wages years ago are routinely appealed and benefits rewarded. Often these claims were filed with forged documents and when denied, the fraudster simply submits more and different fraudulent documents to someone different and if persistent enough, they often are rewarded not for honesty but for perseverance.

The bureaucratic vehicle for successful fraud is often via the ALJ-Administrative Law Judge. If a claim is denied for whatever reason, it can be appealed to the Administrative Law Judge where a person can try again to become eligible for benefits. The ALJ will accept new documents not previously submitted to the agency. This in theory is OK because some folks need a second chance to get a claim properly submitted. Think of people in public school that can only eek-out a C minus if the class is graded on a curve. These folks can’t abide by the normal rules and need extra babying or babysitting to get to the correct result. This is likely why they are unemployed in the first place. Following certain societal rules is necessary for getting and maintaining a job and some folks just can’t cut it without extra help.

The problem with that ALJ system is that they never check any documents. They do not verify Social Security Numbers. They do not verify Drivers License Numbers. They do not verify U.S. Passports. They do not verify any documents submitted to them at all. Oh, and everything submitted to them is photocopies or scanned. Furthermore, they do not verify if applicant ever lived or worked in California.

Worse yet, if EDD staff flags something as fraudulent, the ALJ will often ignore their findings.

Doubly worse is that any documents submitted at an ALJ hearing are purposely kept from EDD staff in the Identity Unit. Thus, the people charged with verifying the authenticity of documents have zero input to evaluate the authenticity of new documents presented at an ALJ hearing.

In cases where the fraudulent claim uses the same documents found in the initial application process, ALJ judges have often excoriated EDD staff for not accepting the forged documents as part of their decision to approve claims for people that don’t deserve them. The ALJ judge is often busy grading the quality of art work done on Photoshop and not interested in looking too hard for the veracity of the documents.

The Identity Unit is not formally trained on what to look for when it come to fraud. There are no master or example documents that we know are correct to use to compare with stuff submitted by claimants. The only advice some are given is look up such and such a document on the Internet and compare that to what you were sent. FYI most of what you see on the Internet are forgeries, so this advice is worse that worthless.

For example, try looking up a U.S. Passport on the Internet under images. Most of what you see in this search are fakes, some better than others. If I want to evaluate a passport, I need to get mine out of my fireproof lockbox and compare it to the scanned copy that I’m looking at as part of someone’s application for benefits. Ditto for a California Driver License—except that there are multiple versions, some of which I’ve never seen before.

Different staff are given limited tools to verify certain documents, but these tools are not all equal. Counting me, there are three in my working group and each of us has a different software package for checking the same identity documents. Each software varies in the detail that can be researched.

This is the next issue with EDD and that is that a myriad of different software is used by the department. None of these programs can talk with each other and all serve different functions. As with all California’s government agencies, the backbone of the department’s automation is still the Unix systems that were brought online in the 1980’s. I would guess that about two dozen different programs are used daily by various parts of the agency.

California claims to be the technology capital of the world but has the worst and most archaic computers around.  There is talk of wanting to modernize, whatever that may be, but whatever they decide to do, you know it will be fraught with waste, fraud, abuse, and delays. Also, it will cost several times whatever the winning bid will be. Think, costs of hi speed rail over time.

So, if you’re handy with Photoshop, have lots of free time, and don’t mind shopping on the “dark web” for identity information, you too can join the California gold rush. California’s EDD, where you get money for nothin’ and your checks for free. Multiple entries do increase your chances of winning.

Folks, I’m glad I’m leaving there in seven weeks.

PS I think the ALJ (and the Department) are inclined to ignore identity documents in part because Newsom and the boys at the “bill mill” don’t want to be accused of excluding illegal immigrants from cashing in. Today’s recipients are tomorrow’s Democrat voters.