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VEC to issue benefits to thousands stuck in limbo for months after threatened lawsuit

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Posted at 9:54 AM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 18:21:59-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Nearly 80,000 Virginians who have been waiting, in some cases for months, to find out if they are eligible for unemployment benefits, will be greenlighted to receive their benefits by December 15, according to communication between the Virginia Employment Commission and the Legal Aid Justice Center.

The Legal Aid Justice Center threatened a class action lawsuit against the VEC in November if they did not fix problems with the unemployment insurance program.

On Thursday, the Deputy Commissioner for the VEC, Bill Walton, wrote back and said the VEC would institute a new policy that would enable people stuck in limbo to get their benefits.

Specifically, if the VEC cannot adjudicate a person's claim within 21 days of detection, the person who filed the claim will receive weekly benefits until the claim can be sorted out.

"Some people receiving benefits had their benefits summarily and unlawfully cut off, without the chance to first have a hearing and tell their side of the story. This group will now have the opportunity to receive unemployment benefit payments while they wait for a decision, which is what the Constitution and federal law requires," Legal Aid Justice Center attorney Pat Levy-Levelle said in a press release.

Any time an issue is raised with a claim, for example, an employer said the claimant was fired for cause or voluntarily left their job, the VEC has to investigate.

As part of that investigation, a deputy talks with both the employer and the out-of-work claimant before making a decision about benefits.

That undertaking is referred to as the adjudication process.

The VEC has been overwhelmed with unemployment claims since the pandemic began in March.

In October, the VEC told CBS6 they were four months behind in adjudicating claims.

The VEC expects to review the 74,000 claims pending adjudication by December 15th.

The VEC released a statement Friday morning on the new policy:

"We have been working on this issue for a period of time. We know others have expressed concerns regarding these claims and we are glad we are now able to move forward with paying these customers," said VEC spokeswoman Joyce Fogg.