Appeals from Denials of Eligibility
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As is the case with other Federal agencies, there are procedures for appeals from many of the decisions that ONHIR makes. These procedures are set out in the regulations which govern ONHIR operations (25 CFR Part 700) and in the ONHIR Management Manual which is available on this website. Members of the public with questions as to which decisions can be appealed and how to appeal decisions are encouraged to communicate directly with ONHIR (in person; by telephone; by fax or by E-mail).
ONHIR is providing the following informal discussion of some appeals for your convenience. This discussion does not replace ONHIR formal appeal regulations and Management Manual procedures. In the event of any conflict between this discussion and the Manual or formal Regulations, the provisions of the Manual or the Regulation prevail.
Most of the appeals that ONHIR deals with are appeals filed by or on behalf of Navajos or Hopis who apply for the Relocation Housing Benefit and are denied by the ONHIR Certifying Officer. With the denial ONHIR sends the Applicant the Appeal procedure from the Management Manual.
In some specific situations the denial by the ONHIR Certifying Officer is a final decision for ONHIR. These include notifications from the Certifying Officer that an Application for Relocation Benefits (“Application”) will not be accepted. ONHIR does not accept Applications from the following people:
1. A person who submitted an Application in the past.
2. A person who is not an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation (if they are making a claim based on HPL residence) or who is not an enrolled member of the Hopi Tribe (if they are making a claim based on NPL residence.)
3. A person who already received Relocation Benefits either as a “Head of Household” or the spouse (or spouse equivalent) of a Head of Household who received Relocation Benefits.
4. A Navajo who signed the Accommodation Agreement with the Hopi Tribe back in the late 1990’s.
5. A person born after December 22, 1974.
6. An Application received by ONHIR after August 31, 2010.
In those situations in which an Appeal from a denial of an Application is permitted, the Appeal must be in writing and be from the Applicant (or the Applicant’s legal representative) and be received by ONHIR within sixty days after the Applicant received the written denial of his or her Application. A person may petition the ONHIR Executive Director to waive the sixty day time limitation and if the Executive Director decides to do so, then the Appeal will be accepted and processed.
ONHIR encourages Applicants who submit Appeals by fax or E-Mail to confirm that ONHIR has actually received the Appeal. If an Applicant requests that ONHIR confirm receipt then ONHIR will do so. In addition, after ONHIR receives any written Appeal ONHIR writes the Applicant (or the Applicant’s legal representative) acknowledging the Appeal and advising the Applicant whether or not the Appeal is accepted or rejected.
When an Applicant appeals a denial, he or she should explain why he or she is appealing in the Appeal letter. This explanation should set forth why the Applicant believes the denial is incorrect.
ONHIR does not require that any particular form be used for Appeals, but an Appeal must clearly and legibly contain information that enables ONHIR to identify the Applicant or other person appealing an ONHIR decision; determine that the document is in fact an Appeal and what the person is appealing.
Once an eligibility Appeal is filed and accepted, unless the applicant has counsel, the next step will be a pre-hearing conference and then an Appeal Hearing before an Independent Hearing Officer. If the Applicant does not have counsel, then at a mandatory pre-hearing conference the Independent Hearing Officer will explain the appeal procedure to the Applicant.
If the Applicant has counsel, then pre-hearing conferences will only be scheduled if a party requests such a conference or the Independent Hearing officer determines that such a conference is appropriate.
A written transcript of the Appeal hearing will be prepared and provided to the Applicant or if the Applicant has counsel, then to such counsel.
An Applicant or an Applicant's counsel has two weeks after receipt of a transcript to prepare and submit a legal brief or memorandum to the Hearing Officer summarizing the Applicant's reasons why she or he should be certified.
After the Appeal hearing and receipt of the Post-hearing Brief the Independent Hearing Officer will make a decision on the appeal and provide a written decision to the Applicant.
If the Applicant is not found to be eligible for Relocation Benefits, the Applicant can seek reconsideration of that decision by the Independent Hearing Officer. If such reconsideration is denied, then the Applicant can seek review and a favorable decision from the ONHIR Executive Director.
If the decision of the Executive Director is to uphold the denial of eligibility a written document called “Final Agency Action” will be sent by the Executive Director to the Applicant. If the Executive Director reverses the denial of eligibility then a letter will be sent to the Applicant by the Executive Director advising the Applicant that he or she has been certified as eligible for Relocation Benefits.
If an Applicant’s denial is upheld by the Executive Director, the Applicant may seek review in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. Such review must be sought within six years after Final Agency Action by the Executive Director.