How Do I Collect Unemployment Benefits?

It's simple enough to ask questions about an ability to collect unemployment benefits

But, some answers are simply, a lot more involved, than any free advice can cover about the circumstances that lead to individuals collecting, and not being denied once things reach a first level unemployment appeal hearing. 

Hi, my name is Chris and I will be able to assist some with finding professional representation for unemployment appeal hearings, in these states, or someone who can coach you to represent yourself better in the others.

But, when you can't afford additional help,  there will always be the questions, or answers, that can be useful when you need to understand how unemployment benefits are made to work, and the problems some have with getting, keeping and not repaying benefits already received. is free information, but everything here is also subject to a legal disclaimer ..

Mainly because I, like most of you, am not an unemployment lawyer.  But I still learned enough about it to protect my own best interest .. when the time came that I too became unemployed through no fault of my own.

Yup, Unemployment Law Varies About What Is, or Isn't Good Cause to Collect ... So

It's completely natural for me to make a few assumptions about why you might be here.  But when dealing with anything that relates back to something called unemployment law, don't make a habit out of assuming your reality of how you lost your job, will also be your employer's.

The odds favor your question will be about unemployment benefits when you quit, or  get fired.  

Or, you may need to make a decision about an unemployment appeal

Regardless of good cause, both quitting and getting fired equate to non-monetary eligibility issues.  

Most people first glimpse their issue(s) with receiving unemployment benefits, when they receive the non-monetary claim determination, which is the second determ. a person receives after they file a claim for unemployment.

The first initial determination is all about monetary entitlement.  

Both determinations are appealable whether you know, or just believe, the unemployment department issued an erroneous gatekeeper determination based upon the "available information" provided by you, and your base period employer(s).

An unemployment appeal, whether filed by you, or an employer, takes the disagreement up a notch, to an actual administrative law hearing (tribunal level) for a FULL FACT FINDER.

Many common questions about unemployment could be eliminated by using State by State Unemployment Law Comparison Charts found on the unemployment law resource page.

Or, those charts might just do the trick and prompt some of you to ask me a more informed question about when, where, why, how .. and if.

Q&As:   Discussing When Circumstances Let Some and Not Others, Get Across Why They Lost A Job Through No Fault of Your Own

I'm sure you've read that to get unemployment benefits, you must of lost your job through no fault of your own.  Well, it's true, but not everyone's circumstances will allow them to prove what may of been true at a point just prior to the job separation.

Sometimes it's simply hard to see when there is a workable argument, or to find the one that offers a path of least resistance.  

Sometimes, it's hard to see through your feelings to find a way to prove the employer was the one at fault, as an employee, you couldn't see the forest for all the quasi-judicial unemployment trees you didn't know you were running into, or you might of made a choice to create, or acquire proof of action to weight your story.

In 2008, I began an experiment after I had already gone back to the job that helped me float above the maze of ways to a denial of unemployment..  

I began answering questions about collecting unemployment.

Let me apologize now and suggest the search bar .. because clearly, I went overboard when what I needed was more categories for all the questions. 

Why Positioning to Meet, or Rebut the Unemployment Burden of Proof is Important

Unemployment Law is a quasi-legal form of administrative law and an unemployed person, just like their employer, should consider the burden to prove, from a 360 degree objective viewpoint because that's when you can see strengths and weaknesses in a burden of proof that must be proven to meet the standard of law applied at unemployment appeal hearings.

The First Unemployment Appeal

The first unemployment appeal hearing (often called a tribunal hearing) is important because it creates the record upon which further unemployment appeals are based, such as one going to a board of review when you disagree with the first appeal hearing decision.

If you're not clear as to what should be included in an unemployment appeal letter for the first hearing .. I have a sample letter, and a bit of advice as to what should not be included.

Sample Unemployment Appeal letter

Can You Collect Unemployment When You Quit?

Simply put, yes it is possible for a person to collect unemployment when they quit.  

But there's nothing like facing a fact.  When you quit, you are also assigned the burden to prove good cause to of been the moving party to end the at-will employment relationship.

Benjamin Franklin said it best. 

"An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.

Read More About the Burden of Good Cause to Voluntary Quit a Job 

You can also follow up with hundreds of individual Q&As about quitting a job.

Unemployment When Getting Fired From a Job

The only fortunate thing I can tell you right now about getting fired from a job, is the burden to prove good cause is supposed to be assigned to the employer that fired you.

And of course, we now have a general definition of work misconduct that can help guide us to know how we might defeat an employer set on proving us guilty of it.

And then there are the Q&As about being fired and collecting unemployment  

Unemployment Questions and Answers

Typically, employee's ask all sort of unemployment questions, trying to understand the process of an unemployment claim.  However, my best tip is to find the ability to think critically about your own claim for benefits and realize that is best served by removing the obstacle of emotional response .. to what you're facing once you apply for benefits .. an issue of unemployment law.

Although not an exhaustive list of the questions I used to answer regularly, when you start digging for those  answers, you'll notice it's the individual details of each job separation whether a quit, or discharge that goes back to the burden to prove good cause to a state administrative law agency .. aka your unemployment department.

Evaluating an Unemployment Story for Merits to Win an Unemployment Appeal

Hows, Whys, Whens, Buts & Ifs of Collecting Unemployment

All info on is subject to a legal  disclaimer.

When you tell your unemployment story to friends, family, or even me, you likely aren't telling the story in the same way I would tell you to explain things to the unemployment department.

Every unemployment claim goes through it's own initial adjudication phase and by then, you should be focused on telling the story for best affect on the burden.

If you quit your job, you should be focused on what will prove good cause for being the moving party.

If you were fired for misconduct you should be focused on poking holes in the burden the employer must meet to prove misconduct .. related to the work.

Example:  What does you being a top performer, have to do with a rebuttal argument to that of an employer stating the final incident was one of you, committing work related misconduct?

Point being, even top performers and a supervisor who might come under the heading of employer, can both be proven guilty of meeting the definition of misconduct.

How you you relate your story to the unemployment administrative law agency is crucial.  But the question to ask yourself is whether it's coming from an emotional defensive stance, vs. an objective offensive position.

Emotions are said to clutter the issue of anything legal and this holds true for matters of unemployment, although unemployment is considered to be quasi-legal administrative law.  Many states and the federal government allow even non-attorneys to practice this type of law as you should note when you thoroughly review the instruction that come with a hearing notice and notice the  term "other representative".

In fact, your employer may be using a company such as I, (a non-attorney) once worked for, called a cost control company. with the primary goal of denying to at least those quitting, or being fired.

Click here to learn more about me.

Tip:  An employee, just like your boss, or HR dept. has more ability to affect the final outcome of a first level unemployment appeal hearing while there is still active employment relationship in which to build documentation that actually supports the reason the job ended..

Good Cause to Quit 

Discover why it's important to first try to preserve and save your job.  Read the Q&As

Good Cause to Fire

Discover what your employer must prove for you to be guilty of misconduct. Read the Q&As

Of course there's more issues that can affect the outcome of benefits aside from good cause to quit, or discharge.  They are called conditional eligibility issues.

How Unemployment Works
When You Quit a Job

When you quit a job and file for unemployment benefits, you will have assured yourself of being assigned the burden to prove you had good cause to quit.  

You might be asking, "what's wrong with that".  Plenty .. if you're clueless as to how unemployment works when you quit your job.

Questions and answers about voluntarily quitting a job can shed light on not only the burden you must meet, but the specific reasons people quit their job .. as they connect to the possibility of even being with good cause.

Q&As - Can I collect unemployment if I quit my job?

How Unemployment Works
When You're  Fired

Better than when most people quit .. and that's because the burden of proof is now assigned to the employer and the burden is to prove work related misconduct.

Misconduct, as well as what it isn't, has been defined in a precedent decision 1947 and It's still the predominant definition upon which most state specific definitions of misconduct are still based.  

Q&As - Getting Fired and Unemployment Benefits

Fighting a Denial of Unemployment Benefits

Although there is a lot written about employers legitimately fighting unemployment benefits, very little is written about how some choose to use and abuse the unemployment process when someone is allowed to collect benefits, even when they clearly have little to no merit to stop your benefits.

On the other hand, employees who've been initially denied unemployment, often ignore their own right to write an appeal letter to an erroneous initial denial of unemployment benefits. 

Not to mention the need to prepare to win a hearing on merits .. not hopes and wishes.

Read more about Unemployment Appeals

How to Apply for Unemployment

How to claim unemployment, at least for me, is first knowing how you should apply for unemployment properly and with a legitimate argument to back your claim up from the beginning.

If you need to know where to apply for unemployment .. I'm already concerned for you .. but then you might also be the type to ask questions .. before you act and that's a really good thing.

The list of initial causes one can choose for being unemployed is shorter than I am.

  • Voluntary Quit
  • Discharge for Misconduct
  • Lack of Work (Laid Off)

The question is simple .. however the answer often gets cluttered up with your own emotional confusion about the events leading to a voluntary quit, or discharge.

Get this cause for separation question right .. otherwise you run the risk of appearing as someone who may of thought they had to willfully misrepresent it as material fact in an effort to obtain benefits.

And here's why you don't want that.

Qualifying Monetarily Doesn't Mean You've
Been Allowed to Collect Unemployment Benefits

Most unemployment claims receive two initial determination about any benefits.

  1. Your claim receives a monetary determination qualifying you for a calculated weekly benefit amount.
  2. You will then receive a non-monetary determination telling you if you're eligible to collect that amount each week.

Some of you may have mistaken the monetary determination (sometimes called the award letter)  with meaning you get benefits.   If only it were that simple, but more of you need to scrutinize the the monetary determination for errors .. which might include a denial .. because an employer didn't report, or pay taxes on your covered wages.

Q&As About Monetarily Qualifying for Unemployment Benefits 

Read the full disclaimer here: provides information with the perpetual hope it will be educational, and eye opening for those looking to find and advantage to outweigh the disadvantage of ignorance.

Because .. in the end that is often what denies unemployment benefits that might otherwise have been yours.

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