If you lose your job or have your hours reduced through no fault of your own, you might be eligible to receive temporary financial assistance in the form of full or partial unemployment insurance benefits. Each state administers its own unemployment insurance program. The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) handles claims for benefits under the Virginia Unemployment Compensation Act.
Whether you qualify for benefits in Virginia depends upon three factors: a monetary qualification, a separation qualification and a weekly qualification. The eligibility requirements can be found at http://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed/benefits-information/benefits-eligibility. The basic eligibility requirements include the following:
- You lost your job or had your hours reduced through no fault of your own.
- You worked at least four calendar quarters and earned enough to qualify.
- You must be available and able to work.
- You must document weekly that you are actively searching for a job.
- You must report all income, including severance pay, to the VEC.
How Much Will You Get?
How much you receive in weekly payments from UC and for how long will depend upon how much you earned while working during the base period. The base period is the last four calendar quarters of the last five quarters that you worked. The maximum you can receive each week is $378 if you earned at least $18,900.01 in two quarters during the period used to calculate your weekly payment. The minimum you can receive each week is $54 based upon minimum earnings of $2,700 in two quarters in the calculation period.
Weekly payments can last up to 26 weeks depending upon your earnings. How the employment commission calculates the weekly payment and its duration can be found at http://www.vec.virginia.gov/vecportal/employer/pdf/uifaqbrochure.pdf.
The base period is used to calculate monetary eligibility to receive weekly payments for being unemployed. There are two base periods: the regular base period and the alternative base period. The regular base period is the first four calendar quarters of the last five quarters prior to the date of your claim for benefits.
Note that the base period is not calculated using the date on which you lost your job. For example, if your employment ended in December 2012, but your claim for benefits was not effective until February 2013, the regular base period is October 2011 through September 2012 because those are the first four quarters of the last five quarters preceding the effective date of your claim.
If you did not earn enough during the regular base period to qualify for benefits, you may be able to qualify under the alternate base period. The alternative period is the last four calendar quarters preceding the effective date of your claim. For instance, a person with an effective claim date in February 2013 whose employment ended in December 2012 could use wages earned from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012.
Calculating the base period can be difficult. The VEC explains the base period calculations and provides a convenient table and calculator at http://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed/benefits-information/base-period.
What If You Quit Your Job or Are Fired?
Quitting your job without good cause or termination because of misconduct can disqualify you from receiving unemployment compensation. The employment commission will decide if you are eligible after reviewing the information you and your employer submit about the circumstances surrounding your loss of employment.
If you quit your job or your employer fired you for cause, you must request a fact-finding interview with a hearing officer at the commission of employment. The hearing officer makes a decision about your eligibility for benefits based upon the evidence submitted by you and your employer.
What constitutes good cause for leaving a job is a question of fact that depends on the circumstances of each individual case. A person who voluntarily leaves a job has the burden of proving justification for doing so. The employer has the burden of proving justification in cases involving a fired employee. More information about quitting or termination issues and eligibility for UC benefits can be found at https://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed/faqs/Unemployment-Insurance-Issue-Questions#a46.
What You Need to File Your Claim
Before contacting the Virginia Employment Commission to file your claim for unemployment insurance benefits, you should have the following information available:
- The name, address and telephone numbers of your last employer. If you worked for you most recent employer for less than 18 months, also include the same information about your previous employer.
- Your employment dates in the past 18 months.
- If you work through a union, include the name and local number of the union.
- The names, addresses, telephone numbers and dates of employment for any your employers located outside Virginia.
- Your Social Security number and, if you are not a U.S. citizen, your Alien Registration number
You should also be prepared during the application process to choose how you want to receive your weekly payments. Payments can be by debit card or through direct deposit. Direct deposit requires that you have your checking account number and the bank routing number available. This information is located on your checks. More information about the application process is at http://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed/online-services/apply-for-unemployment-benefits.
How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits
Whether filing online, over the telephone, through the mail or at one of the VEC local offices, the process to obtain benefits includes the following preliminary steps:
- Complete form VEC-B-10 if you are applying through the mail or in person. Internet applicants must complete the online application for benefits.
- Sign, date and submit the completed paper application or follow the instructions to complete the online application process.
- Keep a copy of the application for your records.
- Register for work by completing an online registration form at https://www.vawc.virginia.gov/ within five days from the date of your application for benefits.
- Begin actively searching for a job. This must start as soon as you apply for UC and should continue each week to maintain your eligibility for unemployment compensation.
- Use the personal identification number that the VEC mails to you to make your weekly job search reports beginning at the end of the first week following the filing of the application for UC.
Additional information about the application and eligibility process is provided by the VEC at https://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed/Claimant-Handbook/Claimant-Handbook/Applying-for-Benefits.
The Virginia Employment Commission encourages people to file online in order to avoid delays associated mailed applications. Submit online applications at https://www.vec.virginiainteractive.org/vec2/cgi-bin/login.cgi.
If filing an online claim, you must create an account by providing personal information that includes your name, Social Security number, date of birth and email address. You must also create a user name and password along with selecting a security question and answer in the event you forget your password or user name.
File By Phone
You can apply for unemployment benefits by calling the Virginia Employment Commission Customer Contact Center at 1-866-832-2363.
File In Person
If high call volume prevents you from getting through to the customer contact center, and problems with the internet make it impossible to apply online, there are VEC offices located throughout the state. You can submit your application in person or use the public access computers to file online. A complete list of Virginia Employment Commission local offices is available at http://www.vec.virginia.gov/find-a-job/vec-local-offices.
Work Search Requirement
In order to maintain your eligibility for weekly payments, you must document your contacts with several prospective employers each week. If requested by the VEC, you must provide the following information for each contact:
- Contact date
- Employer’s name, address, telephone and fax numbers, and email address or website
- Full name of the person to whom you spoke
- Description of the position or type of work for which you applied
The VEC considers your weekly search for work to be a full-time endeavor, so your contacts for the week must demonstrate that you devoted at least 40 hours searching for a new job. Merely responding to an advertised job that does not include the name of the employer is not sufficient to satisfy the requirement of actively searching for a job. If the commission determines that you have not documented sufficient contacts to prove that you have been searching on a full-time basis for a job, it can withhold weekly payments.
An explanation of the VEC standards for job searches is located at http://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed/resources/your-unemployment-benefit-rights-and-responsibilities.
You must file a weekly claim for payment in which you establish your continuing eligibility for benefits by certifying that you actively searched for work and that you were available to accept a job if one was offered. You also must report any wages or income you might have received in addition to the weekly UC payments.
You can file your weekly certification online or on the telephone. The telephone number and online information is available at http://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed/online-services/apply-for-unemployment-benefits.
How Benefits Are Paid – Direct Deposit or VA Debit Card
You can choose to receive your weekly payments as a direct deposit to your checking account or as a deposit to a debit card issued by the VEC. You make the choice when you file your initial application for UC benefits. You may change the payment method by phone or online. Additional information is available at http://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed/online-services/apply-for-unemployment-benefits.
You must be ready, willing and able to work in order to remain eligible to receive weekly payments. Taking a vacation will disqualify you from receiving benefits during that period. Refusing a job referral from the VEC could be a refusal to work unless the employment commission determines that the work was not suitable. Factors such as your work experience, travel distance, health and safety concerns, and your overall fitness are considered by the VEC reaching the determination that the work was suitable for you.
Enrolling in school or in a training program without the approval of the VEC could result in disqualification for benefits. The employment commission must determine that the course of study enhance your employment opportunities. You should contact the UC office that handles your claim, or you can call 1-866-832-2363 to request approval for school or training.
Failing to respond to Virginia Employment Commission correspondence may disqualify you from receiving UC. If a question arises about your availability for work or your job search efforts, the VEC can request to meet with you at a local field office. Not cooperating with the commission can disqualify you from weekly benefits.
You can be disqualified from receiving weekly payments if you fail to report income you receive or if you make false statements in order to obtain or continue to receive benefits. Additional information about disqualification is available at https://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed/resources/your-unemployment-benefit-rights-and-responsibilities.
How to Report Unemployment Fraud
Knowingly misrepresenting material facts is unemployment insurance fraud if it is done to help someone qualify for benefits or deceive the VEC about moneys owed to it. You can anonymously report fraud by mail, phone or fax. The fraud hotline is 1-800-782-4001 and the fax number is 804-692-0580. Reports of fraud can also be made by mail by contacting the VEC at the following address:
Virginia Employment Commission Attention Benefit Payment Control Post Office Box 1358 Richmond, VA 23219
Additional information about reporting unemployment insurance is available at https://www.vec.virginia.gov/unemployed/resources/report-unemployment-insurance-fraud.
- VEC Central Office mailing address: P.O. Box 1358, Richmond, VA 23219-1358
- Central Office telephone numbers: 1-866-832-2363, 1-800-828-1140, 1-800-828-1120 (TTY)
- Initial Claims telephone number: 1-866-832-2363
- Weekly Claims telephone number: 1-800-897-5630
- Fraud Hotline telephone number: 1-800-782-4001
- VEC website: https://www.vec.virginia.gov
- VEC local offices