An Important Update on Our Recoupment Process – Part Three

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I want to provide another update on the recoupment process for disasters declared between August 28, 2005, and December 31, 2010, to make sure disaster survivors affected by the recoupment efforts are aware of important upcoming deadlines.

In my February blog, I said we would send out Notice of Waiver letters to disaster survivors who may be eligible for a waiver, and we were committed to implementing the law to the fullest extent and to offer the fairest resolution possible for those who received improper payments at no fault of their own. As of March 30, we mailed more than 87,000 Notices to disaster survivors who may be eligible for a waiver.

At this time, we are conducting thorough reviews of the debt waiver requests we have received, and we are approving requests that clearly meet the requirements for the waiver (more about this below). Starting this week, we will begin to notify applicants whose reviews have been completed and are approved for a waiver.

Important Note: For disaster survivors affected by the recoupment efforts who have not submitted debt waiver requests, you have 60 days from the date of the Notice of Waiver to submit a waiver request, and for a majority of disaster survivors who have received Notices, the deadline to submit your waiver request is between April 16 and 23. As an additional measure, FEMA will also be mailing reminder letters to those who have yet to request a waiver, urging them to do so.

When you respond to the Notice of Waiver letter, your written letter request must provide certain information that explains:
  • Why collecting the debt would cause you serious financial hardship;
  • What you spent the money on and why you are unable to return funds to FEMA. If you happen to have any receipts showing the disaster-related expenses, please provide those to FEMA as well; 
  • Any other personal circumstances that would make collecting the debt burdensome and unfair. 

Although in the past you may have already provided us with information to request an appeal, a payment plan or a compromise on your debt, the standards we must consider for this waiver are different, and it is important that you provide us with as much information as you can to support your request to waive your debt.

This includes completing a form that provides a certification to FEMA of your household “Adjusted Gross Income” from your most recent federal tax return for either 2010 or 2011. This is a requirement under the new law.

As I mentioned above, in order to be eligible for a waiver, certain requirements need to be met, and those are:

  1. The improper payment was received from disasters declared between August 28, 2005 and the end of 2010. (NOTE: the law does not apply to recoupment efforts for disasters declared after Jan. 1, 2011)
  2.  The improper payment was a result of an error solely on FEMA’s part – not on the part of a survivor;
  3. The improper payment cannot have involved fraud, presentation of false claim or misrepresentation; 
  4. The survivor household’s adjusted gross income on their most recent Federal tax return was less than $90,000 (a survivor with an income of greater than $90,000 whose case meets the other qualifying criteria could be eligible for a partial waiver); and 
  5. The collection of the debt would be “against equity and good conscience,” meaning that it would be unfair under the circumstances of the case to collect the debt.

 It is important to note that Congress wrote this law to apply only to recoupment efforts for specific past disasters. In recent years, we have taken significant steps to put strong controls in place to cut down on the percentage of improper payments disbursed after disasters, and we will continue to do everything we can to reduce the need for any potential recoupments for current and future disasters.

If you have questions about the process to request a waiver, you may visit www.fema.gov/debtwaiver or contact

FEMA’s Recoupment Helpline
1-800-816-1122
Monday through Friday
9:00 AM - 8:00 PM EST,

If you have a speech disability or hearing loss and use a TTY, call 1-800-462-7585 directly.

If you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-816-1122.

Everyone at FEMA appreciates your patience as we all work through this process – thank you again.

Last Updated: 
06/16/2012 - 16:19

Comments

I think it's only fair for disaster victims to...

I think it's only fair for disaster victims to collect debts since they will be in need of money during a hard time to recover. It's important though for FEMA to be strict regarding this policy since some may take advantage of this just to get money<br /><br /><a href="http://www.burtcollect.com/collection-agency-city/seattle-collection-agency.html" rel="nofollow">collection agency seattle</a>
shauna:

This is a complete JOKE. I

This is a complete JOKE. I received funds from FEMA because I was told thats what I was supposed to do BY MY SCHOOL. 7 years later FEMA comes after me for funds they say I received erroneously. They said since I was a student, I was not eligible for the $2,000 which was rewarded. I TRIED to tell them that I disclosed at the time of the application process for FEMA that I was a student, my application has the schools address on it because I lived in the dorms. They said many students received funds who weren't supposed to. The first time I ever heard of any debt was two years ago and my life has been HELL ever since. US Dept of Treasury has taken two of my income tax returns WITHOUT ANY NOTIFICATION. I've filed taxes every year and have not been in "hiding"..my number, that was on my FEMA application and permanent address (my parents address in California) has not changed. They never contacted me. After fighting for two years, and calling EVERYONE under the sun, and being tossed around in a circle by both FEMA and the US Dept of Treasury, i thought my debt had been wiped away because they took my 2012 tax returns, 2013 tax returns and I received the rest of my federal that was left over. Again, to this day I have not heard from FEMA or the US Dept of Treasury. Now looking for an apartment, I was denied for an apartment. I was told that I have something that has been sent to collections. I was baffled because I pay all my bills. I've NEVER had anything go to collections. The only things on my credit report are MOUNDS of student loan debt from my BA and MSW programs. I looked at my credit report and US Dept of Treasury says I owe them $34?!? I received $2,000 from FEMA in 2005 and I've had to pay them back close to $3,000 for money they gave to me by mistake?!?! It makes NO SENSE!!! I clearly did not fraudulently file paperwork or I would've been prosecuted...all of this is a SCAM. As of TODAY, as we approach ANOTHER TAX SEASON, I STILL have not heard about my debt or what I owe or what has been paid. My address (permanent address) as not changed, which is the original address I had on my application. I've also changed my address through the postal service. When I tried to apply for this program, which I googled to find out about, FEMA told me I didn't not qualify because I was a few days too late, this was in April 2013. I wrote everyone I could to get this handled but I got nothing. I even wrote to US Senator Barbara Boxer but I got a one page letter of "we can't do anything"..it's ridiculous! It's been almost 10 years since I received these funds erroneously BECAUSE OF THE FEMA WORKERS THEY HIRED during Hurricane Katrina and I'm STILL dealing with it. Despicable.

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