Unemployment insurance (UI) provides temporary, monetary assistance to individuals who meet certain eligibility requirements. Eligibility for this program is largely based upon the circumstances surrounding an applicant’s previous employment and termination. For those who qualify, UI benefits can help cover monthly household expenses while in between jobs after loss of employment. 

However, a worker’s application for unemployment insurance can be denied if that worker does not meet eligibility requirements for his or her state program. Additionally, the amount of unemployment benefits that a UI beneficiary receives could be higher than what she or he was entitled to, resulting in an overpayment. In either case, an appeal may be filed to challenge the decision made on a UI benefits case. Learn more about UI appeals below.

What are unemployment insurance benefits?

UI benefits are provided by the Unemployment Insurance Program. UI is overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor, but administered at the state level. The program supplies monetary benefits to workers who are currently unemployed through no fault of their own, as long as they meet certain eligibility requirements. 

These benefits are provided to beneficiaries on a temporary basis and are meant to assist with monthly household costs, such as housing and food. During that time, worker is expected to seek new employment opportunities. It is important to note that UI fees are never charged to workers. In fact, in most states it is unlawful for an employer to attempt to pass unemployment insurance payments onto their employees. 

Understanding State Unemployment Insurance Programs

While the U.S. Department of Labor oversees the Unemployment Insurance Program, UI benefits are administered on a state level. Therefore, each state’s program may differ from UI programs within other states. 

In general, each state is responsible for determining its own eligibility requirements that must be met to receive UI benefits, based loosely on federal regulations. They also determine benefit amounts and the length of time that benefits can be received. Therefore, these aspects of unemployment insurance can vary between states. 

Reviewing Unemployment Insurance Requirements 

To receive unemployment insurance benefits, you must meet UI eligibility requirements. These requirements will depend on the state where you are filing for benefits. While benefits can differ, qualifications generally include: 

  • You must be unemployed or underemployed through no fault of your own. 
  • You must have worked for a minimum set period of time. 
  • You must have earned a minimum amount of wages during the time that you were working. 
  • You cannot have been considered to be a contractor or self-employed to receive benefits. 

You will need to check with your state unemployment insurance program to learn more about your state program’s specific eligibility requirements. 

Learn How to Submit an Application for Unemployment Insurance Benefits

If you would like to learn how to apply for UI benefits, you must contact your state unemployment agency as soon as you become unemployed or underemployed. When completing an application, be prepared to provide certain details, including: 

  • Personal information, including your name, date of birth and Social Security Number. 
  • Information about your employer, including the names, address and dates worked for previous employers. 
  • The reason that you are no longer employed or the reason that you are underemployed. 

Depending on the state you live in, you may be able apply for unemployment insurance benefits online, over the phone or by visiting your local office. Note that unemployment benefits must be applied for in the state that you were previously employed in, regardless of the state that you reside in. 

When submitting an application for UI benefits, it is crucial that all of the information you provide the unemployment agency is truthful and accurate. Any information that is found to be incorrect could potentially result in the denial of benefits. Alternately, it could result in an overpayment that would need to be repaid in full to your unemployment agency. 

Common Reasons for Unemployment Benefit Denials

UI benefits may be denied for several reasons. If your benefits are denied, you will receive a denial letter by mail that details the reason that you were denied unemployment insurance benefits. While there are several reasons that benefits may be denied, the most common reasons include: 

  • Voluntarily leaving work without a good cause. 
  • Losing employment due to misbehavior or work-related misconduct. 
  • Inability to work or inability to hold a job.
  • Refusal of employment. 
  • Purposefully making false statements on an unemployment insurance benefits application in order to potentially receive benefit payments. 

Reasons for Overpayment

An overpayment occurs when you receive more unemployment benefits that you are entitled to. This can occur for several different reasons, such as the following: 

  • False statements that were made on an unemployment insurance benefits application. 
  • Clerical or administrative mistakes. 
  • Failure to update a state unemployment office of a change, such as after accepting new employment. 
  • When benefits are provided while a previous employer’s appeal is pending and the appeal results in the worker’s denial of unemployment benefits. 

Regardless of the reason for an unemployment insurance overpayment, all overpayments must be repaid in full to the unemployment office. This includes even if the unemployment office was at fault for the overpayment. 

Understanding Unemployment Insurance Appeals 

If you feel that a decision has been made incorrectly regarding your unemployment benefits, you have the legal right to appeal that decision. While filing an appeal does not guarantee a different outcome regarding your UI benefits, it does allow the case to be reviewed a second time, in order to ensure that the decision regarding your benefits was correct. 

Discover How to File an Appeal for Unemployment Insurance Benefits

If you would like to file an appeal, it is important to review the decision letter regarding your UI benefits. Your decision letter will inform you of the date that you must submit an appeal by, should you wish to, and the process you must follow to file. The process for an appeal can vary between state programs. 

Most state UI programs offer several ways that you can file an appeal. Depending on your particular state’s program, you may be able to file online, over the phone, by mail or in person at your local unemployment office. When filing an appeal, you may be asked to provide additional information about yourself and previous employers. 

If your unemployment insurance was denied on behalf of your previous employer, a hearing will be scheduled and you will be notified of the place and time for the hearing. Both you and your previous employer will receive a notice for the hearing. 

A judge will then conduct the hearing and allow both you and your employer to present evidence and argue the case. Once the hearing has concluded, the judge that oversaw your unemployment benefits hearing will issue a written decision regarding the appeal to all participating individuals.