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Transgender Woman Says Illinois Is Denying Her Unemployment Benefits Because Of Name Change

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A transgender veteran is fighting a battle to get unemployment benefits, saying her transition is keeping her from getting any money.

On Monday night, CBS 2's Tara Molina asked the State of Illinois what is being done to fix it.

Myra Lebron's name change was delayed by the pandemic. When it was finally official, she said she wanted to celebrate it.

But then, she ran into issues with the state's unemployment office.

The name Myra Lebron appears on her Social Security card and her driver's license, and it is her name now. But she said the Illinois Department of Employment Security refuses to recognize it.

"To finally get the name change process finished and continue to with my transition, something I hoped for so many years, just to get smacked with all of this," Lebron said. "It eats away at you, to a heavy degree."

Myra is a veteran. She worked in IT for the military and now as a civilian, until the company she was working for downsized, because of the pandemic, in June.

She officially changed her name in July, after pandemic-related delays left government offices closed.

But it's not the timeline causing the issue. It's that the name on record with her past employer doesn't match her name now.


Lebron said she provided all of the documentation proving the change.

"I submitted all my name change information," she said.

Yet, the IDES denied the claim despite all the paperwork in the system.

Months later, she is still waiting on an answer.

"I've been doing side jobs, like cleaning houses, for $20, $40, $50," Lebron said.

Making phone call after phone call to IDES, with weeks waiting in between, Lebron said she can't afford to wait any longer on benefits she was told she's eligible for – but not eligible for as Myra Lebron.

We brought Lebron's story to the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, and Equality Illinois to see if they are familiar with this issue. At the state level, a representative of the ACLU's Chicago office said they haven't heard of the issue until now, but they're concerned about such denial.

On Monday night, we were waiting on the state to address these issues. Molina reached out to IDES and a state representative whom Myra has been in contact with on this.

We will continue to track this until we have an answer.

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

We'll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

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