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.
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.