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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Misawa residents might get financial relief for damages inflicted by Mother Nature.

The Air Force Claims Service Center in Kettering, Ohio, will honor a request for assistance from Misawa’s 35th Fighter Wing legal office, in the wake of the 6.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the region July 24 and caused some personal property damage, according to military officials.

"We let them know our case and the extent of the earthquake," said Airman 1st Class Vanessa Webber, a paralegal.

The center typically handles claims for personal property damaged by the government or in a household goods move, noted Lt. Col. Mark Patterson, 35th Fighter Wing staff judge advocate.

"The determination was this was out of the ordinary and people could not have planned for it," he said.

Air Force active-duty members and civilians can file claims through the center.

The first stop is the legal office, on the second floor of the Torii Building, where staff will guide people through the process. Claims can be filed online or through the mail.

The office also will help members from other services find the right point of contact for their claims, Webber said.

Those with private insurance — such as renter’s insurance — need to file claims with their insurer first, officials said.

If the company is unwilling to pay, an item is not covered, or if the deductible is less than what they would be reimbursed, "we then recommend that they file through the claims center," Patterson said.

Those who don’t have private insurance may file to the claims center, but the Air Force will reimburse for an item’s depreciated value, Webber said.

Insurance companies typically are willing to pay the full replacement value, she said.

The claims process requires thorough documentation.

People must try to substantiate that damage was caused by the earthquake.

Legal office staff may inspect damaged items and people are encouraged to submit photos and receipts with their claim.

Repair estimates are required.

People have two years from the date of the earthquake to file a claim.

From submission to payment by direct deposit takes about 10 days, Patterson said.

Base officials said they don’t know how many people sustained personal property damage in the quake. The legal office as of last week had received about a dozen inquiries about filing claims, Webber said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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