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Virginia attorney's lawsuit against VEC brings commitments of timeliness

An investigation into the Virginia Employment Commission found 'inefficient operations' have put the agency at a disadvantage

NORFOLK, Va. — There are endless words and ways to describe the COVID-19 pandemic, but for many Virginians, the term 'waiting game' is a fitting phrase. 

"We have to acknowledge there are still a lot of Virginians out there waiting for benefits and waiting for answers. We know the work is not yet done," Pat Levy-Lavelle said, an attorney for the Legal Aid Justice Center. 

The long-standing problems with the Virginia Employment Commission have been documented throughout the pandemic including backlogs, long wait times for outstanding claims, and more. 

This week, a state watchdog investigation came forward with new recommendations for oversight and fixes to what they called understaffing and inefficient operations within the agency. 

Levy-Lavelle wants to tackle the issue from a different angle.

"The issue with the VEC is still very much a work in progress. Still a lot of folks hurting, and that's important," he told 13News Now Thursday. 

Levy-Lavelle said he is currently in the middle of an ongoing lawsuit against the Virginia Employment Commission, a lawsuit he says was originally filed this spring. 

The lawsuit was filed focusing on two factors: addressing the timeliness in which the center says VEC processes unemployment claims, and assisting Virginians previously receiving benefits who are then cut off due to issues with their claims.

Last Friday, Levy-Lavelle says a status report was filed alongside the VEC, establishing commitments to better assist Virginians:

  • Commitment resolving the "vast majority" of claims that are still awaiting deputy adjudication where a claimant has not yet received benefits, within weeks
  • Setting up a process to help those "stuck" on an alleged fraud list
  • Using best efforts to speed up appeals, and reporting to the public and LAJC metrics on how they're doing

"The work that JLARC (Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission) has done, and the lawsuit: they're complementary in pushing the state to try and do more for folks in the commonwealth," Levy-Lavelle said.

JLARC's investigation, delivered Monday, found that the VEC Call Center did improve in areas like the percentage of calls answered while lowering average wait times, but also acknowledged that more work was still needed. 

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