Employment Commission faces Labor Day deadline to improve customer service

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Katina DeVaughn and others like her can’t wait much longer for the Virginia Employment Commission to start responding to their complaints. According to a federal judge’s order, the VEC can’t wait any longer at all to make those improvements.

The order, signed May 25 by Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond, set a deadline of Labor Day to reduce its backlog of unadjudicated cases by 95%. Back then, the backlog numbered 92,000.

Devaughn is willing to work in the same field before the pandemic, as a cook and dietician in full-service health care, but she’s gone more than five months without an unemployment payment.

“The last time I received a payment was the last week in March,” DeVaughn said, and she’s been trying to contact the VEC since May.

“Sometimes it will be like ‘hold, you are the next caller, you have one caller ahead of you.’ I could be on the phone for 30 minutes, and I know it doesn’t take 30 minutes to deal with one call. It says that every time, and that can’t be possible.”

Sometimes, her phone calls don’t even get that far. “It’ll just pick up and then hang up. I’m way beyond frustrated”

The Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee has been studying the shortcomings of the VEC and its customer service for months and updated state lawmakers in July.

“I think the call center performance has kind of changed over time, some of the numbers I believe look a little bit worse currently than they did during the peak of the pandemic,” said JLARC project leader Lauren Axselle.

It’s rare for the audit review committee to release its recommendations before it issues a final report on any project. But JLARC says it will release its preliminary recommendations for fixing the unemployment system this month – two months early – because of the urgency of the problems at the VEC.

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