DES says it overpaid Mesa man, wants money returned

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MESA -- A Mesa man says the state of Arizona is after him for thousands of dollars -- money he says he doesn't owe.

The state initially said he owed $2,200. The amount was for unemployment benefits -- benefits that were reportedly "overpaid" to a guy named John Palmer.

In 2008, Palmer had a lot of downtime because he lost his job.

"Well, it's a sickening feeling, you know, the uncertainty as far as what the future holds," he said.

To help out, Palmer went to the Arizona Department of Economic Security to apply for unemployment benefits. As a result he received right around $240 a week, money that really helped.

"Food on the table, made sure the bills were all paid on time and occasionally we could buy a $5 pizza to splurge," he said.

Fortunately, Palmer was able to find a job and stopped receiving benefits, but DES recently sent him a notice saying they overpaid him $2,200 during the course of his unemployment and they wanted that money back.

"It was crazy," Palmer said. "We don't have $2,200 just lying around just to write a check for."

Palmer contacted DES and demanded an investigation. As a result, DES sent him another notice saying he only owed them $514.

"If the $2,200 was revised to $500 how can that amount be accurate?" Palmer asked.

Again, Palmer disputed he owed anything and then got a third notice from DES saying he owed only $132.

"How strange is that? Palmer asked. "I didn't go for the $2,200. I didn't fall for the $500. Now they're figuring, well $132, maybe he'll pop for that."

3 On Your Side got involved and asked DES to look into Palmer's case.

The agency discovered that Palmer's previous employer misfiled his case and his account which caused the problem to snowball.

And although Palmer was actually overpaid $132, the agency was able to waive the amount. Palmer says he hopes people learn that it's always good to ask questions.

"I think there are a lot of people who think these agencies are 100 percent accurate but it's not a perfect world," he said.

DES says the confusion, none of which was Palmer's fault, is the reason they are waiving the $132 he may still owe.

In the meantime, I am continuing to get e-mails from folks with similar problems and I am forwarding those complaints on to DES.