NEW ORLEANS, La. -- Applicants who received a denial letter stating that they are ineligible for disaster assistance can follow a process to appeal this decision, said recovery officials at the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Common reasons for denial include: adequate insurance coverage; damage to a secondary home, not a primary residence; duplicate applications made from the same address; and inability to prove occupancy or ownership.
"The appeals process provides another opportunity for applicants to have their issues resolved," said Lee Champagne, federal coordinating officer. "We want to ensure that every applicant is given full and equitable consideration when distributing disaster aid."
Applicants who are denied housing and other needs assistance under FEMA's Individuals and Households Program (IHP) have 60 days from the date of their determination letter to appeal the decision. All appeals must be submitted in writing.
In their appeal letters, applicants should explain in writing why they think the decision about the amount or type of assistance they received is not correct. They should provide specific examples, such as areas they feel were not addressed in the inspection process. The applicant, or someone who represents the applicant or household, should sign the letter. If the person writing the letter is not a member of the household, there must be a signed statement saying that the writer may act on the applicant's behalf.
Appeal letters should include the applicant's FEMA registration number and the disaster number. In the case of the tornadoes that occurred Feb. 12 and 13 in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Martin parishes, the disaster number is DR-1685. It is important to have appeal letters postmarked within 60 days of the date on the decision letter. It is also important to date the appeal letter, which should be mailed to the following address:
FEMA - Individuals & Households Program
National Processing Service Center
P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville , MD 20782-7055
Letters can also be faxed to 1-800-827-8112 (Attention: FEMA - Individuals & Households Program).
To register for or ask questions about FEMA assistance, residents should call the helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585 for the speech and hearing impaired. The deadline to apply for disaster assistance is April 24, 2007 .
Appealing insurance-related denials
While the law forbids federal payment for losses covered by insurance, financial aid may be provided for losses not covered. Information in the settlement letter from the insurance company can help an eligible applicant obtain available aid from FEMA.
If an applicant is waiting for an insurance settlement and has received a letter from FEMA stating that a claim for federal assistance has been denied because of insurance coverage, then he or she should contact FEMA and request a "delay of settlement" letter. A completed copy of the letter should be mailed back to FEMA at the above address so the agency is aware that the claims process is still ongoing.
If an applicant does receive an insurance settlement and also receives a letter from FEMA stating that a claim for federal assistance has been denied because of insurance coverage but feels the insurance settlement was not sufficient, then the applicant can re-contact FEMA and let them know of the situation. Applicants have up to 12 months from the date that they registered with FEMA to appeal denials due to insurance issues.
It is important to register with FEMA now. Occasionally, the insurance settlement process may take several months before i...