RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Employment Commission is investigating more than 80,000 unemployment claims for potential fraud, according to a chart the agency’s commissioner provided to 8News.
VEC Commissioner Carrie Roth sent 8News’ Jackie DeFusco a chart showing the agency’s figures for disputed claims awaiting review, first-level appeals and claims being investigated for potential fraud as of Oct. 12.
The chart revealing the status of the backlogs was shared after Roth acknowledged the state agency’s new IT system is still dealing with technical issues and that automating the system has presented a challenge for VEC when assigning staff cases to review.
In her interview with DeFusco, Roth touted the work VEC has done to reduce the backlogs since Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office and the table provided to 8News gives specific figures on the separation reports and claims that have been reviewed.
“With a technology system this large, you’re always going to have some issues that you’re going to have to work through. We are constantly improving and adapting,” Roth told DeFusco.
According to the VEC’s chart, the agency has cleared a backlog of nearly 321,000 separation reports since Jan. 15 and had none to review as of Oct. 12. The unemployment claims in need of review by VEC staff were just over 187,000 in January but were 2,522 as of Oct. 12.
The VEC chart shows that 258,320 paid and unpaid claims were under review for potential fraud when Youngkin took office. As of Oct. 12, the chart shows 82,370 claims awaiting review.
The backlog of denied cases waiting on the first level of appeals has moved up since Youngkin’s tenure. There were 100,952 such cases as of Oct. 12, a nearly 14,500 case increase.
The agency faced backlash from Virginians and lawmakers over issues with communication and processing unemployment claims during the height of the pandemic. Gov. Youngkin, who appointed Roth after he was sworn in, focused on the agency’s woes during his campaign.
While many noted the unprecedented number of claims at the time, a state audit from November 2021 found the agency was poorly managed and had little oversight. The agency was sued in federal court over the issues and a settlement was reached in the class-action lawsuit.
Earlier this month, VEC said a criminal investigation into fraud that may have compromised 4,200 unemployment insurance claims was underway.