LEBANON, TN (WSMV) – A Wilson County woman, who is battling cancer, said she has sent appeals to the unemployment office more than 20 times and feels the system is broken.

Valarie Dalton can count how many times she feels the state unemployment system has let her down.

“There’s 28 here that I know, but I know I’ve got some more stuffed in here,” Dalton said.

Dalton, a nurse practitioner who is battling cancer for the second time, was advised by her doctor: don't go back to work during the pandemic.

“I’ve had four colleagues that have passed because they’ve gotten COVID from work,” Dalton said. “And some of them didn’t have pre-existing condition, and it scares me.”

When she first applied for unemployment, everything went well. Until last fall, when she said the state started requiring people to apply for three jobs a week.

“Well, I’m not applying for a job that I don’t need because I have a job,” Dalton said. “So, I would mark that I didn’t apply

The system automatically assigned her case to an unemployment program that requires job searches, but remember, Dalton wasn’t searching for job, so she kept getting denied, and kept appealing.

“I filed appeals for every week that I had been denied,” Dalton said.

But Dalton’s eligible for unemployment because a doctor says she should self-quarantine, given her cancer risk. But she was repeatedly denied, because it was asking her for information, she didn’t need to put in.

News4 Investigates wanted to know, how many other people are in her shoes? The state says they couldn’t break that down but did confirm approximately 150,000 denials since the pandemic began.

News 4 also asked, what’s the most common reason for denials, they couldn’t tell us that either.

“I don’t know that I’m aware of anyone who’s had a medical issue that hasn’t had trouble, and struggled you now, getting that unemployment,” Rep. Gloria Johnson, said.

Democratic State Rep. Johnson from Knoxville, TN knows many in her district also in Dalton’s situation.

“I had a constituent who had to do 13 appeals. We’re a year in and they’re still not getting it right!! That’s a problem,” Rep. Johnson said.

After News 4 asked the department about Dalton’s case, they moved her claim into a category where she didn’t have to put in job searches. It’s a relief and one les thing to worry about as she continues her cancer fight.

“I want to go back to work. I hope that everybody will be able to return to normal,” Dalton said.

If you keep getting denied, the Department of Labor says analyze the program that you’re in. Look at the program to see what the state says you should do before clicking submit.

See if that program matches your needs, especially if you have medical reasons for getting unemployment. That will get you in the right direction.

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