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Individuals and Households Program Debt Collection (Recoupment) Appeal Hearings

Pre-Hearing Actions

Hearing Process & Procedures

Hearing Decision

Scheduling

Downloads & Contact

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This information is intended only for individuals who are scheduled for FEMA debt collection (recoupment) appeal hearings.

Debt collection is necessary when FEMA assistance is used inappropriately, there is duplication of benefits, funds are obtained by fraud, or assistance is provided in error.

After every disaster, FEMA reviews disaster assistance payments to ensure taxpayer dollars were properly spent. In a small percentage of the cases, FEMA finds that disaster assistance may have been given to applicants who were not eligible for some or all the money they received.

FEMA notifies applicants in writing when it identifies and verifies payments that must be collected. Applicants can appeal the decision in writing and request a hearing within 60 days from the date notified. FEMA will schedule an oral hearing when it determines that the question of the debt cannot be resolved solely by review of the paper file, for example, when the validity of the debt turns on an issue of credibility or veracity.

The hearing is an opportunity for you to present relevant evidence (e.g., testimony or additional documents) to support your claim.

Applicant Pre-Hearing Actions

  1. Actuel Collect Evidence
  2. Submit Evidence
  3. Request Your File
  4. Appoint a Representative
  5. Request Accommodations

Step 1: Collect Additional Evidence

Once FEMA establishes the existence of a debt, you are responsible for showing (presenting evidence) that you do not owe some or all of it.

You may choose to:

  • Gather documentation that shows your eligibility.
  • Ask individuals to testify on your behalf under oath at the hearing.
  • Collect sworn witness statements and/or affidavits from individuals who have personal knowledge of the facts underlying the disaster assistance at issue but who are unable to appear at the hearing.

A sworn statement is a written statement, under penalty of perjury, addressing the issue of which the witness has personal knowledge. To be given full consideration, any written statement from a third party should include the person's:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Statement, and
  • Signature

The statement should be notarized by an authorized notary, OR include the statement, "I hereby declare, under penalty of perjury, that the foregoing is true and correct."

Hearing Process and Procedures

Hearings are held by telephone. FEMA does not record the calls.

Hearings are assigned to a Hearing Officer who has had no prior involvement in your case. The Hearing Officer will conduct hearings in a fair and impartial manner. The Hearing Officer looks fully into the issues, questions the FEMA representative and/or investigator, you, and any additional witnesses, and accepts as evidence any documents that are relevant to the case.

The following generally describes how a hearing will proceed.

  1. Actuel Verify Identity
  2. Opening Remarks
  3. Oath
  4. Testimony
  5. Closing Remarks
  6. Continuance

1. Verify Your Identity

As a preliminary matter, the Hearing Officer asks you a few questions to verify your identity. These generally pertain to your date of birth, last four digits of your Social Security number, and current mailing address. 

Hearing Decision

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Illustration of a calendar with a date/block circled

You may expect to receive the Hearing Officer’s final agency determination in writing within 45 calendar days of the hearing.

This decision is a final administrative action and not appealable within FEMA.  If you disagree with the Hearing Officer’s decision, you may want to consult with an attorney.

Scheduling Questions

If you are not available at the date and time of the hearing and need to reschedule, you must submit a written request to reschedule as soon as possible before the scheduled hearing date. Your request must explain why you are not able to attend. Rescheduling requests following missed hearings may be considered but must be submitted within seven (7) calendar days of the hearing.

The Hearing Officer will reschedule the hearing if you demonstrate good cause for the request but may deny repeated requests. In some cases, the Hearing Officer may ask that you submit documentation to support your request.

Send Your Scheduling Request

Please follow the instructions outlined in your Hearing Scheduling Notice.

If you do not attend a hearing, the Hearing Officer has the discretion to either:

  1. Return the file to FEMA's specialized staff for further processing, or
  2. Issue a decision based on the record.

Downloads

Authorization for the Release of Information under the Privacy Act
English | Español

Individual Assistance Program and Policy Guidance (IAPPG)
English

Frequently Asked Questions About the Hearing
English | Español

Need Help?

To get the status of your case, update your contact information, or if you have additional questions, call:

(800) 816-1122
Monday - Friday
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET

If you use a video relay service, captioned telephone service, or other communication services, please provide FEMA the specific number assigned for that service.