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National Disaster

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Resources for People Who Need Help

Appeal Your FEMA Decision

Appealing a FEMA Decision: Questions and Answers

About this Interactive FEMA Appeals program
If you have received a denial letter from FEMA you can use this interactive interview tool to appeal the decision even if you are not able to consult with a lawyer. After you respond to the questions in the interactive interview, the program will use your answers to create a letter that once submitted to FEMA will request your file and appeal the FEMA denial decision. This is a free and secure service provided by LawHelp Interactive, a program of Pro Bono Net. It is designed for use by people impacted by disasters who cannot afford a lawyer.

Ask lawyer to review your letter, if possible.  If you can’t afford to hire an attorney, visit the “Active Disaster Quick Links” section of this website or LawHelp.org to learn about free legal help available for disaster survivors from nonprofit legal aid programs and their partners.

Important: This program does not e-file or submit your letters to FEMA. You must mail or fax the letters to FEMA yourself. The address and fax number are listed in the instructions that will print with your documents, and is also listed here.

Mail your appeal to:
FEMA – Individuals & Households Program
National Processing Service Center
P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-8055

Or fax to: (800) 827-8112
Please be sure to address your fax to: FEMA – Individuals & Households Program

Before you begin the interactive interview and file your FEMA appeal, we recommend that you read the following Frequently Asked Questions for an overview of the appeals process and other very important information:

Can this site help me with an original FEMA application?
No, it cannot. Deadlines for FEMA assistance applications for major disasters are listed on the "Active Disaster Quick Links" pages of this website. 

What is the deadline for filing an appeal?
Your appeal letter must be postmarked within 60 days of the date of FEMA's decision letter.

Is an appeal the only way for me to dispute FEMA's decision?
No. An initial decision letter from FEMA denying assistance is not the last word. If your circumstances have changed, if FEMA's decision does not make sense to you, or if additional information has become available that may entitle you to assistance, you can visit a FEMA disaster assistance center or call 1-800-621-3362 to ask for clarification.  The toll-free lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

I sent FEMA additional documents but have not heard back and the 60-day appeal period is almost over. Should I still file an appeal?
Yes, you should send in your appeal before the 60-day deadline.  In your appeal letter be sure to include any additional information or special circumstances related to your situation (e.g. if you sent additional documents and did not receive a response). 

What if it has been more than 60 days?
If you think you have a good excuse for not appealing earlier, send your letter anyway and explain why it is late.

FEMA granted me rental assistance but denied assistance for repair of my home. Should I file an appeal?
Yes. If the damage to your home was not covered by insurance and you believe you are eligible, you should file an appeal letter. Note that FEMA disaster assistance is intended to provide resources or monetary assistance for losses not covered by insurance and other critical expenses.  It is not intended to restore a property to its pre-disaster condition.

What documents do I need to file an appeal?

Collecting the following documents before you start your appeal may make the process easier:

• Copy of the decision letter from FEMA in response to your request for assistance;
• If you rent your apartment or home, a copy of the lease;
• Homeowners or flood insurance policy and any correspondence to/from the insurer regarding denial or settlement of the claim;
• Rent receipts or other proof of payment for alternate housing (if FEMA denied rental assistance);
• Correspondence from the Small Business Administration demonstrating ineligibility for a loan;
• Contractor or repair estimates, contracts, receipts, cancelled checks, or other proof of expenditures for home repair, personal property replacement, moving and storage costs, medical or dental treatment, or funeral expenses; and/or
• Inspection reports, photographs, or other proof that your home was made uninhabitable by the storm.

Where can I find an explanation of the denial codes in FEMA's decision letter?
A list of denial codes can be found in FEMA's free publication: Help After a Disaster - Applicant's Guide to the Individuals and Households Program.

Can I submit my appeal letter electronically?
No. You must print out the letter, sign it, attach a copy of your driver's license and any supporting documents, and mail or fax it to FEMA within 60 days from the date of FEMA's decision letter.

Can I submit an appeal letter on behalf of a family member or friend?
Yes. If someone other than the applicant files the appeal, the applicant must also submit a signed statement giving that person authority to represent the applicant. Note that FEMA generally communicates directly with each applicant to protect their private information.  The Privacy ACT therefore requires FEMA to obtain written consent from the applicant in order to share their disaster assistance records with a third party.  The written consent must:

• Be in writing;
• Include the applicant’s identity verification information (full name, current address, date and place of birth)
• Be dated and signed by the applicant
• Be notarized or have a copy of a state-issued identification car or include a statement verifying the information is true under penalty of perjury;
• Include an individual identifier (e.g. registration number, current mailing address, current phone number, SSN);
• Specify what information can be released to the third party (e.g. entire case file, current contact information, amount of disaster assistance received);
• Include a third party designation.  The individual must designate, identify, and name the individuals, entities or organizations to which the disclosure is being consented.

Where do I send my appeal letter?
Mail your letter to:
FEMA - Individuals & Households Program
National Processing Service Center
P.O. Box 10055
Hyattsville, MD 20782-7055

Or fax it to FEMA at: 1-800-827-8112. (Attention: FEMA - Individuals & Households Program.)
Remember to keep a complete copy of your appeal letter for your records. If you send it by fax, keep a fax confirmation page to prove you sent it.

How will I find out if my appeal is granted?
FEMA will send a letter to you notifying you of the result of the appeal.

How can I check on the status of my appeal?
To check the status of your appeal online, go to http://www.disasterassistance.gov and click on "Check Your Application Status." Or call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362.

If FEMA denies my appeal, do I have any further right to review of the decision?
There is no right of further appeal, but if your circumstances change after your appeal (for example, if your homeowners insurance claim is denied) you should contact FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 to see if you have become eligible for assistance.

I shared an apartment or house before the storm and didn't have a written lease. How can I prove I lived there?
Provide copies of bills addressed to you, tax returns, or other documents that show the address was your primary residence.  If you paid rent without a lease in place, provide copies of checks, rent receipts, bank statements, or other proof of payment. You also can get a written statement from the owner of the house or apartment, or your roommate, explaining that you lived there as a renter.

Do I have to repay assistance from FEMA?
FEMA assistance for which you are eligible does not have to be repaid, however you may have to repay assistance if FEMA later determines you were not eligible to receive it.

Will I have to pay taxes on FEMA assistance?
No, FEMA assistance is not taxable.

Will FEMA assistance reduce the amount of other government benefits, like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (food stamps), unemployment insurance, or Social Security?
No, FEMA assistance does not affect eligibility for other governmental benefit programs.

What can I expect after I file the appeal letter?
After FEMA receives the appeal, FEMA reviews the letter and the applicant’s file to determine if there is sufficient documentation to change FEMA’s determination.  FEMA may request additional information or may contact a third party, such as a contractor or insurance company to verify submitted information.  FEMA may also schedule an appeal inspection.  FEMA will notify you in writing about the appeal decision within 90 days of the receipt of the appeal letter.

What kind of appeal documentation is helpful to collect?
FEMA recommends the following documentation, although this list is not exhaustive:
 

Denial Reason

Acceptable Documentation

Identity not verified

·         Official government document (social security statement, etc)

·         Copy of driver’s license

Ownership not verified

·         Deed, title, or official record

·         Real estate tax bill or receipt

·         Will or proof of inheritance

·         Mortgage statement

·         Proof of insurance coverage (settlement or denial), or statement from insurance provider

Occupancy not verified

·         Official government document (social security statement, etc)

·         Copy of driver’s license

·         Landlord’s statement or copy of lease

·         Rent receipts

·         Utility bill reflecting damaged residence address

·         Voter registration card or merchant’s statement

Insufficient damage/Damage not disaster-caused

·         Contractor’s statement or estimate

·         Mechanic’s statement or estimate

·         Statement from local official

·         Receipts for expenses caused by the disaster

Insurance may cover losses

·         Receipts for expenses caused by the disaster

·         Proof of insurance coverage (settlement or denial), or statement from insurance provider

 

If your question was not addressed above, please contact FEMA disaster assistance center or call 1-800-621-3362 to ask for clarification.  The toll-free lines are open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.