His insurance company gave him half the value of his home and when he appealed, FEMA sided with the insurance company.
He says when homeowners appeal they think FEMA will be reviewing it, but actually the appeal goes to servicing companies hired by the insurance companies. She says 92 percent of her appeals were ruled against homeowners and in favor of insurance companies. Relieved, he mailed his appeal to FEMA — a couple inches thickness worth of documentation with pictures and engineering reports.
Elizabeth Treston of Long Beach received aid from FEMA after superstorm Sandy damaged her home in 2012. See alsoAreas most targeted by FEMA The agency can claw back money from residents who got FEMA individual assistance for a variety of reasons, most commonly if an applicant was awarded similar funds from private insurance or another federal aid program. FEMA's individual housing program can grant disaster survivors as much as $31,900 to help with rental assistance, to replace damaged property, contents of a home, and other costs. Lemaitre said if there is no response to the initial debt letter within 120 days, FEMA turns the case over to Treasury, which has the power to garnish wages, deduct money from tax refunds, Social Security benefits or other state and federal payments. The group has handled about 270 appeals cases -- with mixed results -- and roughly 100 of those 270 cases are pending. FEMA's individual housing program is separate from its National Flood Insurance Program, which has come under fire after it was revealed insurers falsified claims to limit payouts. In 2011, Congress passed the Disaster Assistance Recoupment Fairness Act, giving FEMA authority to waive some debts from improper payments for disasters between August 2005 and the end of 2010. This was the second appeal, and the last allowed under federal law, according to a statement from Governor Peter Shumlin's office.
FEMA wants some of its aid back, he said, because the agency maintains the Cohills had insurance money to use. And pop fema recoupment appeal letter some popcorn and lead-in time make it a harmful addition to your bed. According to interviews with insurance insiders, FEMA's appeals process is a "joke" and "rigged" in favor of insurance companies.


In some ways, Sandy victims are lucky because the storm was big enough to incentivize lawyers to fight the lowballed claims.
He says FEMA's rules allow insurance companies to process appeals in bulk based on factors within the damage reports. Long Beach represents the ZIP code with the highest debt amount in New York and New Jersey -- more than $1.5 million from 227 aid applications, FEMA data show.
After Sandy, FEMA officials said the agency disbursed more than $1.4 billion in aid to 182,911 applicants in Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. But advocates for Sandy victims say the process is hard to understand, appeals are difficult to fight, and many overpayments are FEMA mistakes, not fraud.
After Long Beach resident Elizabeth Treston got a demand letter in October that she owed more than $4,500, she filed an appeal with the help of Dibble's group. GAO said overpayment or ineligible payments happened when FEMA did not check Social Security death records, ensure survivors were not getting rental assistance while living in their homes, or because the agency had no way of checking if applicants with mortgages requiring flood insurance did in fact have the policies. A new bill seeks to make that authority permanent, so long as waiver amounts don't exceed 4 percent of total FEMA aid, said Gabriel Bitol, legislative director for Rep. Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Representative Peter Welch had all been working with Shumlin to support Bennington's case before FEMA.
New York and New Jersey have initiated criminal probes and FEMA is reviewing as many as 142,000 insurance claims filed after the storm.
But for homeowners in flash floods in the West or smaller tropical storms on the East Coast, all they have is FEMA's appeals process.
Pasterick adds that generally the people who review appeals want to help homeowners, but that they have to follow rules set by FEMA's Claims and Appeals office. The agency struggles to provide quick financial assistance without much oversight while being protective of taxpayer money, said Rafael Lemaitre, FEMA's director of public affairs. According to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the average amount sought by FEMA in New York and New Jersey is $6,560.51. Treston, who uses a wheelchair after a diving accident, said FEMA wanted the money back because of a dispute over who should pay for medical equipment related to her disability.


If passed by Congress, the bill would be retroactive to Sandy and recoupment payments would be refunded, he said. The money the agency wants back represents less than 2 percent of total program aid, FEMA spokeswoman Susan Hendrick said. After FEMA initially ruled that the town was not eligible for any compensation, state and local officials worked together to change FEMA's policy. Lawyers for homeowners say FEMA has been working hard to regain the trust of policy holders.
The most common reason FEMA sent out clawback requests was because homes were mistakenly listed as primary residences rather than secondary or vacation homes, which are not eligible for FEMA assistance. Long Beach isn't the only ZIP code FEMA is focusing on, as other South Shore communities top the list of locals being targeted. FEMA's Lemaitre said he knew of no threshold for how little money was cost effective to recoup, nor an accounting of how much each recoupment case costs the agency. Appeals must be filed within 60 days, and barring a resolution, penalties begin to accrue within 90 days of the initial debt letter.
On Thursday, June 4, 2015, Treston said she felt intimidated and fearing the repercussions from FEMA, she put the money on her American Express. Recipients of the letters are given 30 days to pay the debt in full or risk interest charges. The town appealed that decision, and in August of 2014, FEMA agreed to pay an additional $800,000. The town appealed once more, but Thursday's denial of that appeal represented the last chance to get the funds from FEMA.



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