VA Unemployment Insurance – Stories

Nearly every day we hear from Virginians who are struggling to access the unemployment payments they are owed. Long delays in processing claims, custom service that is nearly impossible to reach, and payments simply stopping with no notice or explanation, are common themes.

Below is a small selection of stories from residents who reached out to us with their issues. Just click on a title to read the full story. To learn more about the problems with the VA unemployment insurance system and how you can take action, click here.

I have an "unresolved issue" on my approved unemployment claim. My former employer did not contest my claim and does not participate in fact-finding interviews regarding former employees.

  

I've been communicating with my Delegate in hope of receiving unemployment payments. Today, his office forwarded the following Email to me:

   

I received the below response from the VEC regarding your benefits. I was unable to receive any additional information, but I did want to provide you with this update. I hope it is helpful

  

"Paula opened her claim on June 20 and stated that she was terminated. The matter must be adjudicated and because of the volume of pending issues, this will take several more weeks. She should just continue to file her weekly claims to keep the claim current. Her local office is more than happy to assist her in finding employment while she is awaiting adjudication."

   

Apparently, it will be several more weeks before a determination can be made and I have been unemployed since June 19th.

     

-Paula

Got laid off mid-March after working full-time at a company in Richmond since 2018. Applied for unemployment & received a rejection stating they had no record of said full-time employment, so I didn't qualify for benefits. Offices were inaccessible by phone, and attempts at sending requested materials via fax returned the provided number as "disconnected." Messages sent via the Virginia Workforce Connection website went unanswered.

   

Upon physically driving to the local VEC office, the doors were locked and lights off, with signs taped to the windows stating the offices were closed for in-person appointments. I ended up submitting the appeal to have my case reviewed online, and again have heard nothing since then. To this day, the VEC has made itself wholly inaccessible in every possible way. If I hadn't been lucky enough to get hired at the end of June 2020, I would continue to have zero income to pay for rent and groceries. I shudder to think what's become of people who weren't as lucky.

    

--E.H.

I got a letter in April saying I'm eligible for $928/wk. I've been paid $0. On June 25 I got a letter saying that actually I wasn't eligible for anything. I was given 30 days from when the letter was sent to appeal. It was sent on June 9, so my actual appeal period was only 14 days

    

--Alex

I received a single unemployment payment followed by five months of silence and no payments. I tried calling, emailing, and snail mail, but never received a reply or even a decent way to contact them.

   

--Meaghan

I filed for unemployment on 5/28/2020 after I went into my job on my day off to receive my paperwork for my DOT physical. Upon arrival I was instructed to sit in the office, so my dispatch manager could get my paperwork. She came in and told me she had to let me go because I said to another employee "that I didn't need my job and could get another one." I immediately filed my unemployment claim and put every detail in the claim.

It's been 12 weeks and still no payment insight.

I have called the VEC numerous times and emailed several times, only to hear they'll get to you it just takes time. My bills are overdue, and I have 3 kids to take care of. I thought the VEC was supposed to help people like myself, but they have failed to do that.

--Joshua

I'm a small cleaning company and since this pandemic, I've lost all my clients. I went on unemployment to make ends meet our landlord sold our house and we were evicted, even with our governor's order to ban eviction, the magistrate still gave us a ten-day eviction. Now we are in a tiny studio above my father-in-law garage.

We have lost everything I feel like and then the worst is my unemployment stopped coming in last week without a warning no issues just stopped. I don't know how much more I can take

--Sara

I was laid off on May 3. Applied for unemployment that day. On May 11 I received an approval letter. I didn’t worry at first since almost everyone I knew had taken at least a month to start receiving payments. After 5 weeks I started calling every day. Usually at least 100 attempts a day. I have never been able to speak to anyone. The only other communication I’ve had from the VEC was to tell me that my CARES Act payment was ending. Even though I haven’t received a penny!

--Kevin

I was collecting unemployment due to not being able to work because I have an Immunocompromised family member. I have been filing my weekly certification and still haven’t received any payment. The VEC stopped my payment without any notification. I have been trying to get in contact with someone for weeks now. No one ever calls me back (as they tell me
they will).

Since March, I have been applying for jobs and have received 0 interviews despite having a BA in Political Science, some graduate coursework completed, and having extensive retail store management experience. 

  
At the end of June, my unemployment deposit was missing and I was confused. I called the VEC and could only get a recording telling me they “could not process my claim due to an outstanding issue with my claim.” So, I reached out back to the State Monitor who helped me before and she asked me “Why haven’t you return back to work at Zoës Kitchen?” I explained to her that the store is still closed (and is as of today 8/10/2020.” She then stated to me, “Well, that is not what we have on record, we received a re-hire notice from Zoës, and you are going to be investigated for Fraud... and there is nothing you can do!” I pleaded my case, explained to her that I could send in a letter from my HR manager, my boss, etc. I explained to her that I received a note in the mail in error about a re-hire notice from Amazon (part time seasonal job I had in February/ Early March and that I responded to it. She explained to me that “that is not what this is about, this is about you not going back to work at Zoës and claiming benefits.” (Note the call was 30 minutes long and she kept putting me on hold unmuted and she was absolutely frustrated that I was asking questions). I again pleaded my case and she stated “their is nothing you can do but wait, you will have to be investigated for fraud, there is no one you can call and nothing you can do.”

  
I then sent a certified letter to the VEC responding to the information she provided me. I also sent in a letter from my HR MANAGER explaining the store is closed and I’m furloughed on or around 7/10/2020.

  
After sharing my frustrations with WRIC news and only after being prominently broadcasted on Chanel 8 news, I then received a call from the VEC Communication Manager on a Saturday. (Note WRIC story actually showed on TV that my store is still closed). I was told by the VEC Communication Manager that there was “nothing I could do but wait.” I explained to her the situation, she said she had no idea what the issue was or where I was, and again said “your gonna have to wait.. I can’t do anything about it... there is nothing you can do but wait.”I then politely explained to her that there are actually many things that I can do and that I would continue to demonstrate, organize, protest, and continue to press on.

  
I received responses from the Governor’s office that I would have to wait and it would be several months. I have contacted delegates, senators, everyone. Nobody is helping!

    

Still waiting for the “issue” to be presented to me by the VEC, no hearing, and no due process.

  

--Thom

My employer furloughed me in March. On May 11th I was asked to return to the office and at the time I asked if working from home was still an option only because my children’s school was/is closed. During that time, I also offered to buy the equipment that is needed for me to perform my job duties. I was denied working from home and I was unable to return. I have been trying to get this resolved for 3 months.

   

--Courtney

 I left work on maternity leave in February, was scheduled to go back to work May 5, yet due to my older son having health issues I was advised by his medical providers to not send him to daycare and to keep him away from others due to his illness because COVID would be detrimental to him. So, I had to leave my job. Spoke with my employer on April 26th (was told I have a job to come back to as soon as this is all over and done with) applied for unemployment on April 27 got the info in the mail with a covered date beginning April 28th.
      
I have called numbers over and over only gotten to speak to one person, and she told me to just keep waiting. It has been like 15 weeks. No update, heard nothing from VA unemployment, and have been filling all my weeks. Nothing within my paperwork from VA unemployment even suggested that my case needed to be looked at by anyone or that there were any issues with my claim.

On May 2, 2020, I applied for unemployment insurance benefits in Washington, DC because I thought I had to apply there based on my residency in the District. After I continued to file weekly UI claims in DC, I learned that I was monetarily ineligible for UI benefits through DC because my income was earned in Virginia and North Carolina in 2019. I was told that I should apply for UI benefits in VA or NC; and that my claims for May in DC would be transferred to my claim in VA or NC. I applied for UI benefits in VA on May 31.

In my initial UI application in VA on May 31, I specifically mentioned and requested the transfer of my prior application and claims in DC in the prior weeks of May. After my initial application in VA I tried countless times to contact the VA VEC by both telephone and electronic messages through VEC voice response system and the VAWC Message Center regarding the unique circumstances of my interstate combined wage claims and the transfer of my prior UI claims for May in DC. As of today, August 12, I have yet to receive a response to any of my calls or messages. Still, I continued to file weekly continued claims in VA until I received a payment for my claims in VA since my initial claim on May 31 through the week ending July 24. On August 2, when I tried to file a claim for the week beginning July 25 and ending August 1, I received a message that my filing privileges were suspended. I tried several times again to call and write to the VEC regarding that message and my inability to file my claim for the week ending August 1 and I still have not received a response.

By my calculations, the payment that I was issued on July 31 for the weeks beginning on May 31 and ending July 25 did not include UI benefits for my claims in DC in May, which should have also included the $600 weekly supplement authorized by the FPUC. Furthermore, the suspension from filing a UI claim for the week beginning July 25 and ending August 1 also prevented me from receiving both a regular weekly UI benefit as well as the $600 weekly supplement for that week, the last week it was available.

  

The VEC disregarded and denied the transfer of my prior claims in DC for the entire month of May and disallowed my claim for the last week of July, all of which weeks were eligible for the FPUC $600 weekly supplement.

  

--Elmer

My last PUA monies came in around July 15th. Right before the extra $600 Federal Cares Act monies were about to end. I was starting to worry about the end of July and what that would mean for me and my small business, the only income I have right now after having to stop doing Airbnb and having been let go from my part-time retail job in April. But, little did I know I would cease receiving that assistance abruptly even before the end of July for reasons that the VEC could not tell me. I tried calling every day at all hours of the day to never get through. Finally after about a week, I was able to ask for a call back from the VEC and I did hear back within 24 hours. They told me that I hadn't filed that week for which I hadn't received my benefit. That was absolutely untrue. I had my email confirmation sitting right in front of me. Then they told me that I hadn't received my unemployment money because I had claimed $51.64 in self-employment income that week. Well, that is true, I reported those earnings, but those monies should have simply been deducted from the monies I would receive. Again, an untruth. After pushing, the representative then told me she would have to submit my inquiry to a supervisor and that I could call back in a few days.

 

A few days later and many bills left unpaid, I tried calling again. It took another week to finally get in the queue to receive a call back again and this time, the gentleman on the phone could only tell me that indeed my name was "on a list" for review. But nothing more. Another week later, the same thing. I got on the list to receive a call back and this time they told me that a customer service rep would be back in touch with me once they had figured out what was going on with now BOTH of my filings which remained unpaid. I never got a call back. It seemed odd that I would since other times when I called, I had been told that they weren't allowed to call people back. So, again, I set a reminder early in the morning to try getting through once again to the VEC. Same deal. It took many days, but finally I got through and this time, when I got a call back from a much more straight-shooter, she told me flat out, there was nothing she could do. That indeed, my name was on a big spreadsheet that they were "sending up" for review. No further information, no clue as to why my PUA assistance had stopped even though I had been approved in April for the 39 weeks. I hung up that day still exasperated and sad, but somewhat grateful to have at least been told, I probably can't expect anything new anytime soon. I am back trying not to spend my energy worrying about pushing the VEC to help me figure out what happened and instead, making an artist store to help push sales of the design I made on merchandise to help ensure we have a fair election this November! Luckily, I have a partner who IS still able to work and help support, but not everyone does.

 

I don't know when this will get fixed if ever or when I will be able to make more money from my business or a new part-time job that helps support my dream of being an artist/entrepreneur. I really hope it gets fixed for those in much worse scenarios than mine because their stories are way worse and having people be evicted, left without the financial help to buy groceries or necessities is not going to help our country move forward, but just the opposite. This is uncalled for and a disgrace.

   

--Cary 

Couldn’t file unemployment on time because the software would not take my Greencard. Could not get through the unemployment office for two months.

  

--Selamawit 

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