Introduction

The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) administers the state’s unemployment insurance program that provides protection against loss of wages to individuals who become unemployed through no fault of their own. To qualify, individuals must meet all eligibility requirements.

Benefits are paid through taxes on employers covered under the Virginia Unemployment Compensation Act. No part of the employer tax is deducted from an employee’s earnings.

An overview of how to get benefits

Here’s a quick overview of how the unemployment insurance process works in Virginia.

  1. Before you apply, make sure you meet all benefit requirements.  Virginia has three primary requirements:  1) Monetary eligibility  2) Separation qualification; and 3) Weekly eligibility.
  2. If you meet all requirements, then you can apply for unemployment insurance.   You can do so, either by telephone at 1-866-832-2363, or online, here.
  3. Determine the amount of your benefit.  You will be mailed a Monetary Determination letter that explains the amount of your benefits and how long you can collect them.  You can also go here to see what your benefits will be.  The amount of your unemployment insurance benefit is calculated by the amount of wages paid to your during a one-year period called a Base Period. 
  4. Decide how you want to be paid.  In Virginia, you can receive benefits either by direct deposit or through a debit card.  Funds are available 2 days after your claim is processed.
  5. Conduct an ongoing job search.  Virginia requires all benefit recipients to look for full-time work while drawing benefits.  As part of this, you are are required to register through the VEC Workforce Connection website at www.vawc.virginia.gov or www.VaWorkConnect.com, or in person at any VEC workforce center. 
  6. You can file an appeal if you are denied benefits.  If you are denied or disqualified from receiving benefits, you have the right to file an appeal. Instructions will be mailed as part of any denial notification you may receive.

Eligibility requirements

There are three general requirements you must meet to ensure you are eligible for unemployment benefits in Virginia.

1) Monetary eligibility

2) Separation qualification

3) Weekly eligibility

Monetary Eligibility

To qualify for benefits, you must have earned enough wages in your base period.  The amount of wages you earned will determine not only if you are eligible, but how much your benefit amount will be and how long you will receive benefits, which can be anywhere from 12 to 26 weeks. 

To get the maximum, a person must have earned at least $18,900.01 during two quarters in their base period.  Benefits are paid 12 to 26 weeks, depending on the amount. The higher the salary, the longer the benefits.

The regular base period consists of the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the effective date of your claim. If you do not have enough wages to qualify for benefits during the regular base period, you may monetarily qualify under the alternate base period that includes wages from the last four completed calendar quarters at the time your claim is filed. If you qualify monetarily, your claim remains in effect for one year. This period is called a benefit year.

To view a table of how much you made and how much that will translate into a weekly unemployment insurance benefit, go here.

After you file an initial claim, you will receive a Monetary Determination that contains your base period earnings, weekly benefit amount and the maximum number of weeks you may receive benefits. Benefit payments last one year from the effective date of your claim, or until the benefits exhaust, whichever comes first.

Review the letter carefully, and if you believe your base period wages are not correct, you should contact the VEC Customer Contact Center at 1-866-832-2363 during normal business hours of 8:125 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.  You will be asked to supply proof of your correct wages by submitting paystubs, W-2 forms and other documentation.

If you qualify monetarily, your claim remains in effect for one year. This period is called a benefit year.

Separation qualification

Even if you have enough wages to qualify to receive benefits, you must still qualify by having a valid reason why you were separated from your last employer. 

If you were let go for any reason other than lack of work, the VEC will gather facts from you and your employer concerning your separation. You will be contacted by a VEC deputy and be given an opportunity to present your information and review that of your employer.   

You will be disqualified if the deputy determines you quit your job without good cause (such as being asked to perform hazardous or illegal work), or you were fired from your job for misconduct in connection with your work (i.e. theft, embezzlement, etc.).  

Weekly eligibility

After it has been determined that you have met the wage and separation criteria, you will still need to meet eligibility requirements on a weekly basis to continue to claim benefits. Unemployment benefits are claimed on a calendar week basis beginning on Sunday and ending at midnight on the following Saturday.

Weekly eligibility requirements include:

Conducting an ongoing job search.  The Virginia Unemployment Compensation Act requires that claimants provide the name of the employers contacted for work, so it is essential that you keep good records as you will be asked to present them to the VEC.

You must report the refusal of any job offers and be prepared to substantiate the reason why you rejected the offer.  Certain criteria, such as pay, distance and other factors may allow you to refuse an offer, but still keep your benefits. 

 File your weekly request for payment of benefits in a timely manner. File your claim for benefits on the VEC web site or over the telephone with the VEC Customer Contact Center. You also must call the VEC regarding your claim when directed to do so.

Be unemployed or only partially employed.  If you did not work and did not earn any money then you are considered unemployed.  If you worked less than full time and earned less than your weekly benefit amount you can still collect a portion of your benefits. 

You must report all work that you performed during the week and the money that you earned, whether you were actually paid or not.  Earnings also include vacation, severance, and holiday pay. Report the total amount of the gross earnings/wages before taxes and other employer deductions are made. Do not report net earnings/wages. If you receive a pension, retirement, Worker's Compensation, or other annuity, it will be deducted from your weekly benefit amount if it is paid by your most recent employer of 30 days or 240 hours or more, or from any employer in the base period of your claim. These payments will be deducted dollar-for-dollar from your weekly benefit amount. If your weekly pension, retirement, or annuity equals or exceeds your weekly benefit amount, you will be ineligible for unemployment benefits for that week.

You must be able to work and available for work with no undue restrictions on your availability for work, such as illness, childcare or transportation issues.

Within 5 days of filing for unemployment insurance benefits, you must register for work through the VEC Workforce Connection website at www.vawc.virginia.gov or www.VaWorkConnect.com, or in person at any VEC workforce center.

To avoid denial of benefits, you must file your first weekly claim within 28 days of the date you filed your initial/new claim.

How to file a claim

Before you file an initial claim

Before filing an initial claim, you will need to have several pieces of information available:

  • Social Security number
  • Home address
  • Mailing address
  • Telephone number
  • A valid email address
  • The reason why you lost your last job
  • If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need an Alien registration number
  • If you were on active duty in the U.S. military in the past 18 months, you will need DD Form 214, Member 4
  • If you worked for the federal government in the past 18 months, you will need Standard Form 8 and Standard Form 50.
  • You will need all of your employment information for the past 18 months, including all contact information and dates worked 
  • Any additional wages you have received from vacation, severance or other sources
  • Other states where you have worked in the past 18 months.
  • If you choose to have your payments made by direct deposit, you will also need to supply appropriate information for that option (bank name and address, account and routing number).

To file an initial claim

You can file an initial claim by telephone or online:

By phone:

Call the Customer Contact Center telephone number at 1-866-832-2363, 8:15 am to 4:30 pm, Monday - Friday.

To apply online, go here

Filing weekly requests for payment

You can file ongoing weekly claims either by telephone or online as well.

File weekly request for payment of benefits online at at www.vec.virginia.gov 

To file weekly claims by phone, call the VEC’s Voice Response System (VRS) at 1-800-897-5630.

You will be given instructions on how to use the VRS when you apply for benefits. Follow the instructions very carefully. The instructions below apply to both Internet weekly requests for payment and VRS weekly requests for payment.

File your weekly request for payment of benefits correctly and accurately, as soon as the week has passed. You will not be paid benefits, even if you are qualified and eligible to receive them, if you fail to file your weekly request for payment.

Remember that the claim week does not end until after midnight on Saturday of the week being claimed and will not be available to you to file until after that time.

Your first weekly request for payment of benefits must be filed with the VEC after the week in which you file your application for benefits ends, but no later than 28 days after the date you filed your application.

How much will I be paid?

Weekly unemployment benefits in Virginia range from $54 to $378 per week and are based on your wages. The more you made, the higher the payout.  Benefits are paid between 12 and 26 weeks, depending on your situation.

To get the maximum, a person must have earned, during two quarters of their base period, at least $18,900.01.  To view a table of how much you made and how much that will translate into a weekly unemployment insurance benefit, go here.

You will also get a monetary determination letter after you file your initial claim that will give you complete details of your expected benefits.  Once you establish a claim that reflects all earnings in covered employment during your base period, the amount you qualify for remains the same for one year and is available to you until your maximum benefit amount or your benefit year is exhausted, whichever comes first.

When and how will I be paid?

Your first payment will be issued to you after you have served a waiting week and are eligible to receive benefits for the second week claimed.

When you make an initial application for benefits, you will be able to select either direct deposit into your personal checking or savings account, or you will be able to collect benefits with a Virginia Debit Mastercard.  Funds will be loaded on to the card which can be used any place where debit cards are allowed as a method of payment.  It takes 2 business days for your funds to be deposited into your account after your weekly claimed has been processed.  You can also change your payment method at any time by logging on to your account on the VEC website or by calling 1-800-897-5630.

When you file an initial claim, you can expect your first payment within 14 calendar days after you file your weekly request for payment of benefits. You may not receive your payment on the same day of the week each time you file your request for payment. Timely payments depend on you meeting all weekly requirements as well. 

However, no payment will be issued if you have a separation or able and available issue on your claim, until those issues have been addressed and appropriate action taken on them.

If you don’t receive an anticipated payment, contact the VEC Customer Contact Center.  However, you should wait at least 5 days after you file your request.

Benefits you receive are subject to federal income tax. At your request, the VEC will withhold federal tax from your unemployment benefits. You will be mailed a statement, Form 1099-G, of benefits paid to you during the year. It is your responsibility to inform the VEC of any changes in your address and to include unemployment benefits received on your annual tax return and pay any tax due.

In Virginia, unemployment benefits are not considered taxable income on your state return.  

Looking for a job while collecting benefits

You must conduct an ongoing and active job search while you are collecting benefits.  As part of this, you are are required to register through the VEC Workforce Connection website at www.vawc.virginia.gov or www.VaWorkConnect.com, or in person at any VEC workforce center. Unless advised otherwise, you must register within 5 days of filing your application for benefits. If you do not register, you could be ineligible to receive unemployment benefits until you do register.

The VEC will ask you to provide information on your work search activities to substantiate your claim, so it is imperative that you keep records of each job contact made, including, name, address, phone number, contact person, date of contact, result of the contact, and other related information.  

To comply with federal law, the VEC will review claims for benefits to determine if you may need special reemployment assistance to make a successful transition to new employment. If you meet the federally mandated criteria, you will be referred to reemployment services, such as job search assistance. If you are referred, you will be required to attend as a condition of eligibility to receive weekly benefits. If you either refuse to attend or do not attend without justifiable cause, you may be denied unemployment benefits.

These types of services may include resume services, individual assessments of your needs and talents, job search assistance, counseling, testing, occupational and labor market information, referrals to employers and other similar services.

If you are referred to reemployment services and do not attend, you could be denied benefits going forward. 

The Virginia Workforce Connection (VWC) is an online Internet based job search site located at either www.VAWC.Virginia.gov or www.VaWorkConnect.com.  Supported by the Department of Labor, the Virginia Workforce Connection is a product of the state’s employment services agencies and is provided as free service to the public. The VWC system is available in local Virginia Employment Commission Workforce Centers or through any Internet access point.

Employers and VEC staff can enter job orders into the VWC system providing specific job skills and requirements. Job seekers can then search these job listings online. Supported by the Department of Labor, the Virginia Workforce Connection is a product of the state’s employment services agencies and is provided as free service to the public. The VWC system is available in local Virginia Employment Commission Workforce Centers or through any Internet access point at www.VAWC.Virginia.gov or www.VaWorkConnect.com.

Veterans’ Services are available to assist veterans in job placement, job referrals, vocational counseling, and case management. The VEC has Disabled Veterans Outreach Program (DVOP) staff and Local Veterans Employment Representatives (LVER) assigned to most offices located throughout the state. Additional veterans’ information and assistance is available on line here or by contacting the State Veterans Services Coordinator at (804) 786-1245.

You have the right to appeal if you are denied benefits

If you are denied benefits, you will receive a written determination. If you disagree with the findings, you may file an appeal. The determination provides the instructions for filing an appeal, explains your rights, and states the final date for appeal.

If you file an appeal, it is very important that you continue to look for work and file your weekly requests for payment of benefits on time while the appeal is pending. Failure to do so may result in the denial of benefits.  

You may file an appeal many possible ways. 

By mail:

The Virginia Employment Commission
Office of First Level Appeals Room 124
P.O. Box 1358, Richmond, VA 23218-1358

By FAX:

(804) 786-8492

By Internet:

File an appeal online at www.vec.virginia.gov/appeals/file.

In all cases, be sure to include your Social Security number and make sure your appeal is received in the office or postmarked no later than the final date for appeal.

At your appeal hearing, you and your former employer will be able to participate in the hearing, give testimony under oath, and present witnesses and documents to support your case. An attorney may represent you, or someone else authorized to act on your behalf. Any such arrangements for representation are your responsibility. You and your representative have the right to question any witness testifying against you. After the hearing, the Appeals Examiner will issue a written decision to all affected parties.

If you disagree with the decision of the Appeals Examiner, you can file a Commission Appeal. You must file the appeal within the period of time specified on the Appeals Examiner’s decision. Upon receiving the appeal, the VEC will mail you a Notice of Appeal. Unless you request a hearing within 14 days from the date the Notice of Appeal is mailed, the decision of the Commission will normally be based upon the information obtained in the Appeals Examiner’s hearing.

If you disagree with the Commission’s findings, you can file a petition for judicial review with the Circuit Court of the county or city in which you were last employed in Virginia. Your petition to the Circuit Court must be filed within the time period specified on the Decision of the Commission.

If you have questions about the appeals procedure, call the Clerk of the Commission at the following numbers: for First Level Appeals, call (804) 786-3020; for Commission Appeals, call (804) 786-4140.

Key terms

Benefit Year – When you first file a claim, it remains in effect for one year.  This is known as your benefit year.

Regular Base Period - consists of the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the effective date of your claim.

Alternate Base Period - If you do not have enough wages to qualify for benefits during the regular base period, you may monetarily qualify under the alternate base period that includes wages from the last four completed calendar quarters at the time your claim is filed.

VEC – Virginia Employment Commission.  This is the agency that oversees unemployment insurance benefits in Virginia and administers the state’s job search agencies as well.

Weekly Benefit Amount – this is the amount you will be paid each week that you are eligible and meet all requirements for collecting benefits. 

For more information

To access the Virginia Employment Commission main website go here.

Hours of Availability for Internet and Voice Response System 

Sunday - 9 a.m. - Midnight
Monday - 4:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday - 7:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday - 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Thursday - 7:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Friday - 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Saturday & Holidays - 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Contacting the VEC

For a complete listing of VEC Workforce Center addresses, phone numbers, and hours of operation, visit the VEC web site here.

VEC Customer Contact Center

1-866-832-2363
Available 8:15am to 4:30pm, Monday - Friday.  

Voice Response system

1-800-897-5630

VEC Administrative Office Location

703 East Main Street
Richmond, VA 23219
(Corner of North 7th Street & East Main Street)

Correspondence mailing address

Virginia Employment Commission
P.O. Box 1358
Richmond, VA 23218-1358. 

Virginia Relay

Telecommunications Relay Service - Press "711"

Toll free access

800-828-1120 (TDD) or, 800-828-1140 (voice)