Judge rejects Virginia Employment Commission’s effort to dismiss lawsuit over unemployment benefit delays
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – A federal judge has rejected a request from the Virginia Employment Commission to dismiss a lawsuit filed over processing delays that plagued the state agency, siding with legal aid groups that argued the effort was “premature.”
The commission pushed for a dismissal in early August, asserting that it had already fulfilled the federal court agreement calling for the resolution of 95% of the 92,158 unpaid claims awaiting adjudication as of May 10 by Labor Day.
Legal aid groups that filed the lawsuit on behalf of five Virginia women praised the VEC’s progress on the backlog, but cited several unresolved issues in a court filing objecting the effort. In response, the plaintiffs asked the court for a 45-day period to allow both parties to discuss and resolve the issues.
“Evidence available to Plaintiffs’ Counsel indicates that tens of thousands of additional cases have been added to the adjudication backlog since May 10, and further evidence shows that very, very few cases are resolved within the time limits established by the U.S. Department of Labor,” the groups wrote in opposition to VEC’s request for a dismissal.
The lawyers for VEC argued the agency “has met, or exceeded,” the targets, standards and deadlines set in the settlement order from May.
“The VEC even met the 95% completion standard for Unpaid Claims Awaiting Adjudication almost a month before the Settlement Order’s September 6, 2021 deadline,” they wrote in response to the plaintiffs’ court filing. “This case has caused considerable disruption at the VEC and emotional stress for its employees, who have collectively worked tirelessly since the Settlement Order’s entry to meet these adjudication targets.”
Noting the complaints his own office has dealt with, the federal judge overseeing the case ordered the parties to meet and provide a status report within 30 days of Aug. 25 that details the proposed benchmarks VEC must hit for a resolution.
“The Court continues to frequently receive telephone calls from individuals reporting difficulties processing their claims and communicating with the VEC,” U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson wrote in his decision.
Meanwhile, millions of people collecting unemployment benefits from federal programs put in place in response to the pandemic — Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation — will soon not be receiving those benefits as those programs are set to expire.
In Virginia, these programs expire Sept. 4 but VEC says claimants who are due benefits will still get paid even after the programs come to an end.
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Unemployment benefit woes continue across Virginia, but the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is hoping to answer your questions without making you wait on hold.
The VEC is now offering a way to schedule a 20-minute phone call with the agency to discuss unemployment benefit issues. The main problem now, slots are going fast!
“People have been wanting to get in, [get through] and talk to a person,” said Joyce Fogg, VEC spokeswoman.
“It will be awesome to just actually talk to someone instead of just talking to a computer screen or email,” said Kori Roach, of Accomack County.
Roach has not had too many issues with receiving her benefits, until this week when her money was not deposited. She believes it may be tied to the new identity verification requirement, ID.me, which went into effect May 25.
“It is to help prevent fraud and to make sure you are who you say you are,” Fogg said.
“Criminals are targeting state workforce agencies to defraud unemployment benefits, so it’s critical states take immediate action to stop paying out taxpayer dollars to fraudsters,” a spokesperson for ID.me said.
What has many people concerned, including Roach, is the part in the email through Gov2Go stating, “Your claim will be suspended until a successful verification is received.”
“We got the email from ID.me that says we were verified,” Roach said. “We haven’t gotten anything from the VEC yet.”
“As long as you respond and get your information uploaded within the 14-day time period, you should be fine,” Fogg said.
However, Roach said her fiancé, who is also on unemployment, has been verified and still has not had his benefits resume. The VEC does point out that it may take 5-7 business days to process the verification.
Roach, meanwhile, is in a holding pattern unable to verify her own identity after her wallet was stolen; inside was her driver’s license.
“I have an appointment with the DMV, but will it come in the mail in time. Will I make it?” Roach said.
“Customers should only complete ID.me when requested,” Fogg added. “It is being done in phases.”
Per the guidelines from ID.me, the proper verification methods include:
- Driver’s license or state ID
- Passport card
The use of a computer or cell phone is suggested for the verification process; however, ID.me said it is working to find other alternatives for those who do not have access to those items.
“We are continuing to take steps to ensure portable and secure digital identity is accessible to all as part of our No Identity Left Behind initiative,” the company said. “For example, we’re introducing an in-person verification option in partnership with Sterling, a leading provider of background and identity services. ID.me will allow anyone to verify their identity at one of over 500 retail locations across the U.S., including those who don’t have access to a smartphone or computer.”
Meanwhile, Roach has not yet received an email through her Gov2Go account about this verification requirement, however, her account now says she has an outstanding issue. That is why she plans to make a phone appointment with the VEC to speak with someone about her claims issues as the new month draws near.
“In the long run, we have to pay the electric bill; our internet bill is a day late now,” Roach said.
The VEC said appointments are very limited and are not guaranteed to lead to any resolution or payment of claims. The agency is also urging you to only schedule one appointment.
“A VEC representative will be calling based on your appointment time/day,” the website states. “Please be sure to answer your phone, as the number may show up on caller identification as restricted or unknown. Staff will attempt to call one time and if there is no answer, they will try one additional time and then will move onto other appointments.”
As of 3 p.m. Thursday, time slots for appointments in the Richmond/Petersburg area were unavailable from June 17, through July 16.
Several other areas are also seeing fully booked slots during that time frame.
However, Fogg said Thursday evening time slots are for two weeks out and more will be added daily.
Meanwhile, Virginians in need of job search help or workforce services are able to speak with VEC employees at offices across the state. These offices are reopening gradually; however, they may not be open every day. To see what hours an office near you may be open, click here.
Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.
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