SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A local woman receiving disability payments from the Employment Development Department said she was left with few answers when her payments suddenly stopped.
In September, Camille Pardo felt something was wrong. “I got to work and a co-worker said, ‘What is wrong with you… you’re usually talkative,’” Pardo said. “I froze.”
She later discovered she was having a stroke. Pardo was admitted to the hospital and then unable to work. She applied for disability benefits with her sister helping file the claim since Pardo had mobility issues.
“It was approved and then, of course, it took about another couple of weeks before the payments came in,” Francesca Pardo said.
In December, the payments stopped with no warning.
“I said let’s wait. [With] COVID, things are a little slow. Maybe they’re missing employees. Second week… okay, let’s give it one more week,” Francesca said.
They started calling the EDD and messaging the agency, but it was no use. “The system would hang up on us,” Francesca said.
An EDD spokesperson could not tell me why Camille’s payments were stopped due to privacy reasons.
The department confirmed late last year, that it suspended approximately 27,000 suspicious medical provider accounts. It also froze roughly 345,000 claims associated with providers or other suspicious activity.
Fraud has been a huge issue during the pandemic with the agency paying at least $20 billion worth of fraudulent claims during this time.
In January, Camille received a letter from the EDD asking her to verify her identity and address. It said her claim may be tied to fraud.
“We were just flabbergasted,” Francesca said. “Somehow there needs to be something that changes because it's ridiculous.”
In a statement to Team 10, the EDD said it was now "working through the queue of claims needing validation due to the fraud attack.”
Francesca said her sister was able to get payments reinstated with her first payment received a couple of weeks ago. She said they never heard from the EDD directly, despite turning in the required paperwork. The Pardos instead turned to their legislator Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins.
The pro Tem’s website has a page dedicated to EDD questions. She said her office received about 3,800 requests specific to the EDD during this pandemic with all but about 22 of those cases solved or settled.
“I'm just pleased that we could be helpful. It's what we're supposed to do,” Atkins said.
She said her office hired extra staff to help with the backlog. “They’ve done an incredible job. We hope to be there when people can’t get through a state agency,” Atkins added.
Legislation approved last year requires the EDD to submit a plan to prepare for an increase in claims caused by an economic recession. A draft of that plan was released last month.
“My message is help people [and] make it easy for people to navigate the systems,” Francesca said. “I think about people who don't have someone like me advocating [and[ who don't have someone like a family supporting them.”
The EDD said approximately 181,000 people were asked to respond to notices, like the one Camille received. As of last month, about 20 percent returned the required paperwork. The agency said low response rates confirmed most of the claims were likely related to attempted identity theft.