Disability claims still in limbo as California EDD battles fraud

Numerous legitimate California disability insurance claims are still frozen as the Employment Development Department (EDD) deals with a recent fraud attack.

For weeks, at least 345,000 disability claims haven’t been paid out because 27,000 medical providers were targeted by identity thieves, the EDD said.

Many legitimate claimants said they were cut off from their disability benefits and were unaware their claims may have been flagged as fraud, until they saw a KTVU report.

"It’s kind of maddening and disheartening to know that something like this went on and the state’s been just kind of tight-lipped about it," Albert Martin, who’s on disability said.

An operations supervisor for a construction company, Martin said he filed for disability in October and had to undergo surgery for an umbilical hernia. By Dec. 1, he was no longer receiving benefits and didn’t know why. 

"No warning or notification of any kind, even to this day," Martin said. "It’s stressful."

He said he called the EDD numerous times and even visited an office to try to get answers. Martin said he was later informed of a data breach and his claim was one of those in limbo.

It has been nearly eight weeks since his last payout, prompting him to write a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

"I’m calling on you and your office to fix this matter as soon as possible please. I am approaching dire need," the letter read in part.

The EDD could not provide updated numbers on how many claims are still frozen but said it is identifying thousands of fraudulent claims while working to verify legitimate ones.

But there is no timeline on when all the valid claims will be cleared.

SEE ALSO: Frustrated by EDD? Here's where you can go for help

Selena Maya just gave birth to a healthy baby girl, following pregnancy complications. Her doctor suggested and signed off on a disability claim, but she still hasn’t seen any money. When?

"I’ve already been through my savings," she said. "I’m struggling."

Maya worked at a Walmart warehouse until she filed her claim thinking the money she paid into the disability insurance system would be available to her.

Despite dozens of daily calls, Maya said she has been unable to reach anyone at the EDD or get a clear understanding of why her claim is not being paid.  

The EDD said claims not flagged as fraud are being paid out, but it blames delays in payment of other claims on aggressive scammers.

"Our top priority is to quickly identify the legitimate medical providers in the mix and clear any legitimate claims that may be temporarily held up," the EDD said in a statement to KTVU. "EDD is also sending emails…to impacted medical providers notifying them to validate their identity through ID.me as quickly as possible."

Still, it’s not fast enough for people like Maya who just received an eviction notice this week for unpaid rent. She said she blames the EDD.  

"It has only been three weeks since I’ve had my daughter but I kind of want to go back to work already," Maya said. If I don’t get any income, I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent."

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at brooks.jarosz@fox.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @BrooksKTVU