1401 New York Avenue, N.W.
FEMA APPEALS PROJECT
4/26/06 - IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR VOLUNTEER ATTORNEYS
FEMA Appeal Deadlines and Timeliness
Appeals for FEMA benefit denials must ordinarily be postmarked within sixty (60) days from the date of the final decision letter denying a FEMA application. However, because many FEMA determination letters are written as interim denial letters and request further information from the applicant, the 60-day deadline may not be triggered by such determination letters. For example, in FEMAs form interim denial letter for insured applicants, applicants may receive a $0 determination from FEMA but are told that A $0 amount listed above does not necessarily mean that you are ineligible for assistance. It means that FEMA needs to know the amount of your insurance settlement and your unmet needs before we can process your application further. In addition, to add to the confusion, many of these letters include the boiler plate language of If you disagree with this decision, you have the right to appeal within 60 days of the date of this letter.
In light of the interim nature of many determination letters, as well as the statement that FEMA needs more information, volunteer attorneys should not view such interim determinations as triggering the 60-day deadline. Thus, upon first receiving case placements, volunteer attorneys should carefully review determination letters to identify whether FEMA has made a final or interim determination. In addition, volunteer attorneys should contact clients to determine whether they have filed letters of appeal while their request for legal assistance was pending.
FEMA representatives have also indicated that even in cases where the 60-day deadline for appeal has been triggered and passed, FEMA may accept out-of-time appeals when accompanied by an appeal letter that describes both the substantive basis for the appeal and an explanation of why the applicant missed the deadline (including, for instance, confusion about whether the deadline applied to an interim determination).
In any event, volunteer attorneys should assemble documents and information from client-applicants to submit letters of appeal as expeditiously as possible.