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Types of FAFSA Professional Judgment Appeals & Documentation

Types of FAFSA Professional Judgment Appeals and Documentation

The Department of Education provides guidance and the flexibility for Financial Aid Administrators to exercise professional judgement. To account for special circumstances of a student, the SAIC Financial Aid Committee may be able to exercise professional judgment (PJ) to adjust the data that determine a student’s EFC on the FAFSA application if provided with appropriate documentation. The Committee cannot consider consumer debt (e.g., auto loans, credit card payments, foreclosure, bankruptcy) as a condition for consideration. If your professional judgment appeal is approved, your eligibility for federal, state and/or institutional financial aid will be re-evaluated. Submission of an appeal does not guarantee a change in your financial aid eligibility or award(s).

The decision of the SAIC Financial Aid Appeal Committee is final and cannot be appealed to the US Department of Education.

Samples of Professional Judgment Appeal Circumstances and Documents Needed

Examples of some of the types of appeal circumstances and documents needed are listed below. These are examples are not inclusive of all possible appeal circumstances.

For Involuntary Loss or Reduction of Employment, Loss of Military Employment or Benefits

If you had an income reduction (loss of overtime will not be considered), or have lost employment for at least eight weeks that has resulted in a reduction of income. (Eight (8) weeks must have passed prior to submission of this appeal for either circumstance.)

Possible Documentation required:

  • Completion of the Anticipated Total Income and Benefits Worksheet (our office will provide)
  • Written verification—from the former employer(s) that indicates start and end date of employment or reduction of hours. Former employers should document dates and amounts received for earnings, severance pay, vacation, and retirement payout. You may provide us with a copy of your last pay stub received which should detail your year-to-date earnings, severance, etc.; AND
  • Written statement—from the current or future employer(s) (on company letterhead) that indicates expected gross earnings for the calendar year. Yearly earnings must be documented with a letter from the employer projecting earnings or with copies of two most recent pay stubs; AND
  • Eligibility forms—indicate dates and amount of unemployment benefits, such as unemployment compensation you are or will be receiving. We will need a copy of your initial eligibility determination letter from the unemployment compensation office.
  • Additional information for disability—a signed statement from physician indicating the start date and projected length of time of inability to work, or estimated date disability will end.
    • Documentation of any social security, worker's compensation or other disability income received.
    • Most recent pay stub with year to date gross earnings from all jobs worked.

For Separation, Divorce, or Death

You must have already filed your annual FAFSA and since that time, you have separated, divorced, or a death has occurred.
Documentation required:

  • Complete of the Anticipated Total Income and Benefits Worksheet (our office will provide)
  • Copy of legal separation papers or divorce decree (documenting child support or alimony); OR
  • Evidence of separate living accommodations if no legal separation exists; OR
  • A death certificate and documentation of year-to-date earnings for the deceased.

For Loss of Taxed/Untaxed Income or Benefit

If you received unemployment compensation or another taxed or untaxed income or benefit, and have completely lost that income or benefit for at least 8 weeks in the calendar year. Eight (8) weeks without compensation must have passed prior to your submission of this appeal. The untaxed income or benefit must be from a public or private agency, a company, or from a person due to court order (Do not include loss of educational veteran's benefits.) Income and benefits may include: Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), child support, untaxed retirement or disability benefits, welfare benefits, or living allowances.

Documentation required:

  • Complete of the Anticipated Total Income and Benefits Worksheet. (Our office will provide)
  • Copies of all contracts, agency notices, or legal papers that indicate the date of taxed/untaxed income or benefit was terminated, what amount of income came from that source, and how that income was used. If loss of child support, provide relevant pages of court decree documenting the date it will end.

For Loss of One-time Income

If you received one-time income in the previous year that will not occur in the current year (e.g., rollover into a Roth IRA, moving expense allowance, back-year Social Security payments, or a divorce settlement). Special circumstance consideration will not be given if this one-time income is a result of an inheritance, job bonus or overtime compensation, pension, capital gain, insurance settlements, or early distributions of retirement accounts.

Documentation required:

  • Complete the Anticipated Total Income and Benefits Worksheet (our office will provide)
  • Copies of all contracts, agency notices, or legal papers that indicate the date your one-time income was terminated, what amount of income came from that source, and how that income was used.

Nursing Home Expense/Adult Dependent Care

If you are paying a nursing home or an adult dependent care facility for services provided to a family member during the academic year.

Documentation required:

  • Documentation that your family member is being cared for by a nursing home, other facility, person, or agency.
  • Documentation of your payments; i.e. copies of canceled checks or payment receipts from person, facility or agency.

Unusual, Unreimbursed Medical Care Expenses

Unexpected medical expenses—If you paid unusual or unexpected medical expenses for a member of your household that is not reimbursed. These expenses are over and above typical health maintenance costs due to an unexpected, extraordinary emergency or incident. Only those costs not covered by insurance or another agency may be considered. These expenses must be at least $3,000. Payment of insurance premiums, regular health maintenance, and routine expenses such as eyeglasses, birth control prescriptions, and elective or cosmetic procedures (e. g., orthodontic braces) are not considered unusual medical expenses and will not be considered for the special circumstances appeal. NOTE: Only expenses already paid directly by you will be considered.

Documentation required:

  • Complete the Medical/Dental Documentation Form (our office will provide) and submit with copies of supporting documentation/receipts as proof of payments made in the current year. Include a copy of the payment agreement with the hospital or health organization, if applicable.

Medical expenses for certified disabled student—if you have medical expenses to a chronic disability, costs may be considered in your financial aid eligibility. Disability related costs are those expenses attributed to managing a chronic illness or condition that is not due to an unexpected incident or emergency.

Documentation required:

  • Statement from a health care provider and/or Disability Services that document the unusual condition; AND
  • Receipts or canceled checks that demonstrate payment for medical treatment of this condition.

Catastrophic Event

Documentation required:

  • Official report, invoices and receipts of expenses paid by the family not covered by insurance.
  • Copy of statement(s) from the insurance company of any paid or denied claims.

Dependency Overrides

Under federal guidelines, most traditional-age undergraduate students are automatically considered dependent upon their parents. Aid eligibility is computed using parent financial information. A student may, however, have extenuation circumstances that warrant special consideration for independent status. Some allowable appeal reasons include such situations as abuse, abandonment, or other irreconcilable differences within the family in which the student cannot and/or should not have contact with the parents. Federal law gives the Financial Aid Administrator the authority to override the dependency status of a student if such conditions exist and if it can be documented by official authorities such as a doctor, police, legal counsel, social worker, religious authority, etc. 

Below are some common circumstances that are often asked about and that do not merit a dependency override, either alone or in combination:

  • My parents are not helping me pay for my education
  • My parents do not claim me on their taxes
  • I moved out of my parent's house after I graduated from high school
  • My parents and I don't get along
  • My parents got mad at me and kicked me out of the house
  • My parents live in another state
  • My step-mother/step-father doesn't want me around

If you believe that your circumstances warrant consideration, please contact a Student Financial Services Advisor to discuss your situation and next steps.