If you are out of work, you might be eligible for unemployment benefits. Unemployment compensation is available to those who are temporarily out of work, without fault on their parts. The basic structure of the unemployment system is the same from state to state. However, each state sets its own rules for eligibility, benefit amounts, filing procedures, and more.
This article explains how unemployment benefits work in Virginia.
The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) handles unemployment compensation and decides whether claimants are eligible for benefits. You must meet the following three eligibility requirements to collect unemployment benefits in Virginia:
You must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment benefits in Virginia.
If you were laid off, lost your job in a reduction-in-force (RIF), or got "downsized" for economic reasons, you will meet this requirement.
If you were fired because you lacked the skills to perform the job or simply weren't a good fit, you won’t necessarily be barred from receiving benefits. If, however, you were fired for misconduct, you may be disqualified from receiving benefits. For example, you will likely be ineligible for benefits if you were fired for lying about your criminal record, failing a drug test, or being repeatedly late or absent in violation of a known policy of your employer.
You won't be eligible for unemployment benefits if you quit your job voluntarily, without good cause. In general, good cause means that you had a compelling reason that left you no other choice than to leave. For example, if you left your job because of dangerous working conditions or discrimination that your employer refused to stop, you may be able to collect benefits. If you quit your job to relocate with a spouse who had to move for a new military assignment, you will still be eligible for benefits.
Like every state, Virginia looks at your recent work history and earnings during a one-year "base period" to determine your eligibility for unemployment. (For more information, see Nolo's article, Unemployment Compensation: Understanding the Base Period). In Virginia, as in most states, the base period is the earliest four of the five complete calendar quarters before you filed your benefits claim. For example, if you file your claim in September of 2015, the base period would be from April 1, 2014, through March 31, 2015.
To qualify for benefits in Virginia, you must meet both of the following criteria:
To keep collecting unemployment benefits, you must be able to work, available to work, and looking for employment. (For more information, see Nolo's article, Collecting Unemployment: Are You Able, Available, and Actively Seeking Work?) If you’re offered a suitable position, you must accept it.
Whether a position is suitable depends on how similar the job is to your previous employment, how much you will be paid, the working conditions, and the skills, experience, and training required for the position. The longer you are unemployed, the more likely you will have to consider jobs that pay less, are in a different field or occupation, or require a longer commute.
You must engage in a good faith search for work, including registering with the VEC. You must keep records of your job search efforts, which must include at least two job contacts per week. You will receive instructions for your work search when you apply for benefits.
If you are eligible to receive unemployment, your weekly benefit in Virginia will be based on what you earned during the two quarters of the base period in which you were paid the most. (You can look up your exact benefit amount on the Benefit Table at the VEC website.) The most you can receive per week is currently $378; the least you can receive is $60. You may receive benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks. (In times of very high unemployment, federal and state programs may make additional weeks of benefits available.)
You may file your claim for unemployment benefits in Virginia electronically. You can find contact information and online filing information at the website of the Virginia Employment Commission.
Once the VEC receives your application, it will send you a packet of documents, including a monetary determination that provides your potential weekly benefit amount.
If your unemployment claim is denied, you have 30 days to appeal the decision to the VEC. A hearing will be held on your appeal, at which you may testify, present witnesses, and offer evidence before the Appeals Examiner makes a decision.
If you aren’t satisfied with the Appeals Examiner’s decision, you may appeal it to the Office of Commission Appeals within 14 days. If you are unhappy with the Commission’s decision, you may appeal in state court.
For more information on the unemployment process, including current eligibility requirements and benefits amounts, visit the website of the Virginia Employment Commission.