• Disabled veteran says FEMA denied him aid after Hurricane Maria because he gets VA benefits

    By: Lauren Seabrook


    ORLANDO, Fla. - As thousands of people come to Florida from Puerto Rico in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been giving assistance to evacuees.

    Armando Figueroa, though, told Channel 9 Friday that he was not among them.

    Tears were streaming down his face as he sat inside Orlando International Airport where FEMA is operating an assistance center.

    A disabled veteran who served 15 years in the U.S. Navy and another 16 in the Army, Figueroa is on 100 percent disability after he was paralyzed by an improvised explosive device while serving in 2008.

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    It took him and his family four days to get out of their mountaintop neighborhood in Puerto Rico and another month to reach Florida.

    "When I took a peek outside, it was like they dropped a bomb out there," he said of the damage caused by Maria. 

    Photos: WFTV returns to Puerto Rico

    Because he is already receiving Veterans Affairs assistance, he said FEMA told him he didn’t qualify for a FEMA hotel room.

    "Basically, we don't qualify for anything," Figueroa said. "(The VA) found us a place for two weeks. After those two weeks, I don't know exactly what's going to happen."

    When contacted by Channel 9, a FEMA representative said Figueroa was eligible for a longer stay in a hotel.

    Video: FEMA housing assistance for those displaced by Hurricane Maria

    No one at the assistance center said anything about that, Figueroa said.

    The experience left Figueroa feeling that he had been left behind without any options.

    He has hope for the future, though.

    "I've got faith and I know God's going to help me," he said. "We're going to come around."

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