Appellate court allows appeal of pandemic unemployment benefits denial to proceed

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An Indiana woman may administratively appeal the denial of her application for pandemic unemployment benefits, the Court of Appeals of Indiana ruled after the Department of Workforce Development failed to present evidence challenging the timeliness of the appeal.

On Oct. 30, 2020, a claims investigator with DWD issued a determination of eligibility finding that L.M. was not eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance benefits.

The determination contained a statement that it was “sent” to L.M. that same day, although it did not specify how it was “sent.” In addition, the determination provided it would become “final on 11/9/2020 if not appealed … within 10 days of the date this determination was sent.”

L.M. appealed on Nov. 13.

A hearing on the issue of whether L.M.’s appeal was timely was held before an administrative law judge in February 2021. DWD did not appear and thus presented no evidence about when or how the determination was sent.

For her part, L.M. testified she did not receive the determination in the mail, but she did receive it in her Uplink self-service account, an online service offered by DWD. However, she said it wasn’t until Nov. 3 that she “could see [the Determination] on the Uplink account.”

The ALJ concluded L.M.’s appeal was not timely and affirmed the decision of the claims investigator.

“Although the Claimant did not receive the Determination of Eligibility in the mail, she received the Determination of Eligibility in her Claimant Uplink self-service account on November 3, 2020,” the ALJ wrote.

But the Court of Appeals held that because DWD didn’t present any evidence, the only reasonable conclusion was that the determination was not sent to L.M. until Nov. 3 based on the ALJ’s findings — thus making her appeal timely.

“Therefore, L.M. had until November 13 to appeal,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote. “The ALJ’s conclusion that L.M.’s appeal was not timely was not correct.”

Thus, the case of L.M. v. Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, 21A-EX-990, was reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

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