Millions of people along the Atlantic coast have been devastated by Superstorm Sandy, a freakish weather event that has damaged or destroyed an huge-but-unknown number of homes along the Atlantic Coast, especially in New York and New Jersey.
Veteran and military households in the impacted areas should take several immediate steps to protect their VA loans, benefits and credit.
First, contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) either online or by calling 800‐621‐3362.
Second, contact your mortgage servicer. The servicer is the company that collects your monthly payments. They typically have an 800-number included with their payment books, the place where you can also find your loan number. If you have been impacted by Sandy ask about “forbearance” options which can delay or reduce payment requirements, stop negative credit entries, halt late charges and defer foreclosure. The VA says it has “requested” that lenders defer foreclosures for at least 90 days.
Contact Your Insurer
Forbearance is neither automatic nor necessarily uniform. You must contact your lender for assistance and the lender must then evaluate each request. If you need additional assistance contact the VA directly at 877‐827‐3702 and speak with a loan specialist.
Third, contact your property insurance company. The VA says that vets and their families should file insurance claims as quickly as possible, “however, do not make a hasty settlement on insurance. When the property is damaged but repairable, attempt to get your local engineer’s office to inspect your home for structural damage. If possible, get at least two estimates from licensed contractors for cost of repairs or rebuilding.”
The VA also explains that all insurance payments are not the same: “Insurance checks for personal property and living expenses should be payable to you only. Checks for damage to your home should be payable to both you and your mortgage company.”
If you are no longer at the location where you receive benefit payments be certain to complete a change-of-address form with the US Postal Service and contact your nearest VA Regional Office for additional information. Also, if your local bank is damaged or off-line be certain to check your accounts and bank’s ability to accept payments as quickly as possible.
Substantial assistance is now flowing into the disaster area from both government and private sources. As examples, the Air Force is using a dozen C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to deliver power restoration trucks and equipment while 7,400 members of the National Guard from nine states have been called up to help with recovery efforts.
More help is on the way, and there’s little doubt that the unique equipment, facilities and personnel available through the Defense Department will be widely employed. In the meantime, protect your financial interests by following the steps recommended by the VA.
For more info on finding help after natural disasters, check out: 5 Steps for VA Borrowers After Disaster.
Photo courtesy edbierman