Calculating, Filing and Appealing Unemployment Compensation

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Each individual state follows their own computation system when offering unemployed workers benefits.  Across the board, each state will have minimum and maximum amount to determine unemployment benefits and compensation that can be paid out to one individual weekly.  Some factors will either raise or lower your weekly unemployment entitlement, including:

  • Whether or not you have a spouse or dependents
  • How much money you earned at your last job
  • Legislative opinion and reactions to unemployment statistics

In the average course of unemployment assistance, individuals have twenty-six weeks of unemployment coverage.  Additionally, the vast majority of states allow another thirteen weeks of benefits for most workers, especially those in states with high unemployment rates.

How to Withdraw Pension Money if Laid Off

If you participate in a profit sharing, 401 (k), or other defined contribution arrangement involving an individual account, the terms of the plan may allow a lump same payment of retirement benefits as soon as you leave the company.  If you participated in a defined benefit plan (as opposed to defined contribution plans) during your employment tenure, where you received pre-determined benefits at a fixed rate, your benefits start at the set retirement age.  However, defined benefit plans often do not contain clauses to remove funds early. 

Regardless whether you have defined benefit or defined contribution plans, provisions in the plan documents will detail whether your pension money available to you at a given date and in what form.  Contacting your pension plan administrator can clarify the specific questions pertaining to your individual pension plan funds.  As a rule of thumb, employees should always keep a copy of their SPD, or Summary Plan Description, which outlines your benefits, how to calculate them, and the method of obtaining an individual benefit statement with benefits to date and vesting status.

How to File an Unemployment Insurance Benefits Claim

Persons interested in filing an unemployment insurance benefits claim should consult their local office of the state administered unemployment program.  In most states, applicants can now file for unemployment benefits via the mail, phone, or online in addition to filing in person.  Generally, there is at least a one-week waiting period between application and receipt of benefits, assuming all documentation and bureaucratic pieces are in place.

Required Documentation

Unemployed individuals should keep track of their unemployment benefits earnings, as these are taxable income, which taxes are not automatically deducted in most instances.  By having all of the right documentation readily available, you most likely will be able to receive your benefits much sooner.  Some important documentation to have when applying for unemployment benefits includes:

  • Personal Social Security card
  • Recent payroll records, pay stubs, or other relevant pay rate information
  • Relevant tax information, including W-2 forms and other IRS reporting documents
  • Any piece of documentation supporting your involuntary unemployment and the terms of these termination

Through a process known as investigation, individuals are monitored by state officials and unemployment program employees to prevent abuse or fraud of these benefits.  Complying with these programs is mandatory, if individuals wish to continue receiving unemployment compensation benefits. 

Appealing Your Unemployment Compensation Claim

First, your former employer may appeal cases where you are receiving benefits and do not meet the qualifications.  If your employer appeals an unemployment claim, you will receive a notice in writing of the appeal, but your benefits will not stop until a judgment is reached.  In the event employers’ appeals are upheld, you may be held responsible to repay all received benefits. 

Additionally, the state unemployment office may deny your claim to unemployment compensation.  Typically, you will receive a notice of the denial of your unemployment benefits request, and you may have anywhere from one to four weeks to appeal.

How to Appeal Unemployment Decisions

If you appeal a state decision to deny your unemployment benefits, there most likely will be a hearing within the next few weeks at your local unemployment office.  The decision of these hearings are generally deemed final, therefore, some appellants will bring legal counsel to represent their claims appeal.  To appeal an unemployment decision, individuals must request an informal hearing with the Department of Labor within thirty (30) days from the mailing date of the initial rejection of unemployment benefits. 

During the hearing, individuals may present evidence, documents, testimony, and even witnesses, such as their ex-employer, to promote their claim for unemployment benefits.  Items such as company manuals, handbooks, employment contracts, memos, and your personnel file are all important pieces of documentation that may bolster your case.  In addition, individuals can review the information present in their case file before the informal hearing, which will contain the previous information used to determine your unemployment eligibility or ineligibility. In the hearing, however, be prepared for cross-examination from opposing parties, which may include your previous employer. 

If you do not receive a favorable decision during the initial appeal, individuals must file another appeal within twenty (20) days of receiving their “note of decision” from the informal hearing about two weeks after the actual hearing. 

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