What unemployment benefits exist for veterans? The need for such help is high even in the best of times, but in a local or national emergency situation, knowing how to find and access such help is crucial.
In March of 2020, coronavirus pandemic containment measures required cities and states to take drastic measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. Those measures included the temporary shuttering of many non-essential businesses, employee furloughs, layoffs, and other loss of income.
Because of that, veterans all across America join the over six million workers who applied for unemployment compensation in one week alone (in the USA) because of the economic impact of the pandemic.
Unemployment figures in reports issued by CNN and other major news outlets include mention that unemployment claims from early March 2020 rose 3000%, an unprecedented level of out-of-work people in need of help.
Two Basic Types Of Unemployment Benefits For Veterans
There are two basic situations where a veteran may need to seek unemployment. One is the usual situation where a worker is laid off, fired, etc. and has to file with the state unemployment office to draw compensation based on the employee’s salary, length of the unemployment contributions made, etc.
The other situation is when a veteran leaves military service and may encounter difficulty or delays in finding a new job. This circumstance may be covered by something known as UCX, or Unemployment Compensation for Ex-servicemembers.
Unemployment Programs And Benefits Specifically For Veterans
UCX, the Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers program, is offered by the federal government to those who are transitioning from a career in the military to civilian life. This federal program is administered by state governments. You must meet the basic eligibility rules for UCX and qualify for your state’s other unemployment requirements.
The applicant must:
- Apply in the state where she resides
- Not be on terminal leave
- Have served the full initial term of duty or have served 180 days or more if Guard/Reserve
- Be an active job seeker
- Have an Honorable discharge
Eligible applicants must otherwise meet the state’s unemployment guidelines; the continuing eligibility requirements are identical to “regular” unemployment claim procedures.
How much are you entitled to under this program? That depends on a number of factors including how long you served during the qualifying period, any amount of lost time that may be applicable, and other variables.
How UCX Works
Under UCX, the money you earned in the military is calculated as though it was earned in the civilian job market (to include all pay and allowances) and is based on your final pay grade before retirement or separation. The amount you are entitled to is based on a calculation made by the state following U.S. Department of Labor rules.
UCX Payments Can Be Reduced If You Earn Income
The amount of money you receive under UCX may be reduced if you also receive any of the following:
- Training allowances
- Social Security payments
- Workers compensation
State unemployment guidelines may also apply. There also may be other veteran-specific unemployment resources available at the state or local level; be sure to look up your state and city government official site, and use that site’s search tool to find “veteran unemployment” or “military unemployment” information.
Students should not, as a rule, expect full UCX benefits if they are drawing GI Bill housing allowances and in general you may find your state does not allow students to draw unemployment. Look up the rules of your state as all governments have different requirements.
Read more about Unemployment Compensation for Ex-servicemembers (UCX).
Unemployment Resources For Disabled Veterans
State and federal programs alike have special options for disabled veterans in the form of hiring preference such as the Civil Service “points system” (an option that is often mirrored at the state hiring level), but also in programs like the Department of Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation & Education (VR&E) program, which offers job training and related services for veterans with qualifying service-connected disabilities.
We mention VR&E here because housing stipends may be available for certain kinds of training associated with the program; it’s not a direct unemployment compensation option but does offset the costs of housing while learning a new job skill. If you are currently unemployed and thinking about a change of career or learning new skills, VR&E can help ease the transition for those who qualify.
An Important Caveat For Disabled Veterans
Depending on what kind of unemployment assistance you get, you may be restricted in applying for similar financial help related specifically to unemployment. For example, those who are currently drawing benefits from the Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program or the VR&E program cannot also draw compensation from UCX (see above).
Typical Unemployment Insurance
When things are normal, a veteran who was fired, laid off, or made redundant may (depending on the nature of the employment and whether it meets state unemployment standards) apply for state-level unemployment benefits.
Each state has an official site where you can find information about claiming your out-of-work benefits. A good example is the State of California’s Employment Development Department, which has instructions, forms, and an online benefit calculator for veterans and non-vets alike.
What is typically needed when applying for state-level unemployment? Individual state requirements may vary, but the State of California’s requirements include:
- Last employer contact information
- Last date worked
- Reason(s) you are no longer working
- Gross earnings in the last week you worked
- Information on all employers you worked for during the past 18 months
- Notice to Federal Employees About Unemployment Insurance, Standard Form 8 (former federal employees only)
- DD 214 Member 4 copy (ex-military only)
- Citizenship status
- For non-citizens, information from your employment authorization document
It is crucial that potential applicants do not second-guess what benefits may or may not be open to them; apply for any benefits that may be open to you. In some cases workers who have had reduced hours but not a total layoff may be eligible to apply; ditto for those who had to take time away from work to care for a loved one affected by the coronavirus.
Such provisions were modifications to existing guidelines; if you explored your unemployment options prior to March 1, 2020 you may be surprised at the changes that have been added in the wake of COVID-19. Re-examine your options if you haven’t already.
Unemployment Benefits For Veterans And Non-Veterans Related To COVID-19
The federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak in 2020 included economic relief measures across a wide range of industries. But one of the most important forms of relief for the average citizen (veterans and civilians alike) came in the form of unemployment relief.
What kind of relief? The federal government pledged up to $600 a week above and beyond each state’s maximum payout, plus an extra 13 weeks of benefits. There are also provisions made for those who traditionally have had a harder time getting unemployment benefits; gig workers, freelancers, contractors, sole proprietors, etc.
Federal guidelines were also modified to make rules for unemployment more flexible at the state level to pay benefits that include but may not be limited to the following scenarios:
- The employer “temporarily ceases operations” due to COVID-19
- An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over
- An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member
- Federal law does not require an employee to quit to qualify for unemployment benefits, “due to the impact of COVID-19”
To claim these benefits, you must start an unemployment claim with your state government. Remember that each state has its own guidelines, but in general unemployment programs are regulated by the federal government–all states must meet the national regulations as well as their own internal policies.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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