Sneaky Tactic to Reduce VEC Backlog
Friday, February 17th, 2023
Thousands of unemployment claimants may find today that their unemployment appeals are officially dismissed.
In a move to wipe out more than a quarter of its backlog of almost 93,000 appeals, the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) sent out notices alerting claimants that nearly 26,000 appeals – some years old – were filed late. The agency gave the nearly 17,000 affected claimants until February 16 to provide evidence that either their appeal filings were on time, or that the filings were late for good cause. Claimants who failed to respond will have their appeals automatically dismissed today. Likely thousands more claimants will have their appeals dismissed in the coming weeks and months, as the agency assesses the sufficiency of the claimants’ good cause evidence.
The VEC’s move to dismiss late appeals comes just as its attempts to shorten the appeal window failed in the General Assembly. In late January, lawmakers unanimously shelved two bills (1639 Walker, 1435 Bell) that would have cut the time in which claimants and employers could appeal an unemployment decision from 30 days to only 15.
“Just as the Commission was telling the General Assembly that 15 days was plenty, it knew that for nearly 26,000 appeals, 30 days was not enough,” said VPLC attorney Flannery O’Rourke. “Virginians have the right to be heard when timeliness of an unemployment appeal is questioned by the VEC because VEC regulations actually require it,” she said. An appeal hearing is the only opportunity for employers and unemployed workers to present testimony and evidence and to question the VEC about what happened in their case.
VPLC is working with other stakeholders to determine the next steps to respond to the VEC’s latest circumvention of claimant rights. In 2021, VPLC and several legal groups sued to stop the VEC’s dereliction of the due process rights of Virginia residents.
At present, Virginia ranks 48th in the country by the U.S. Department of Labor for the time it takes the VEC to decide appealed cases. The average wait time between appeal filing and the appeal hearing is 362.5 days – almost a full year! Thus, even claimants whose appeals survive the VEC’s latest scheme to tighten the appeal timeline will still be forced to wait on the agency.
VPLC and Legal Aid Justice Center have issued recommendations on the steps the agency could take to reduce the backlog and improve the system for everyone.