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Gulf Spill Fund Offers Little Information to Claimants

Acknowledging his operation should be doing a better job of providing information, the claims czar promises to deploy more agents in the Gulf to respond to desperate claimants.

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Feinberg speaks to officials in Harahan, LA. Photo by BP America on Flickr.

Many claimants seeking compensation for damages from the Gulf oil spill say they are struggling to get basic information about what is happening with their claims.

Dozens of claimants have told ProPublica they are having trouble getting information about their submissions, and applicants say that the claims agents they speak to on the telephone and in field offices are unable to provide any answers. It is possible to check the status of applications on the website of the operation run by claims czar Kenneth Feinberg, but claimants say they cannot get explanations for their status, for delays in processing, or for the size of the checks sent out for approved claims.

Feinberg acknowledged to ProPublica that his operation should be doing a better job of providing enough information to claimants. He said he has been making changes to improve transparency and responsiveness.

“We have responded to that valid criticism that there’s no way transparency-wise for somebody to get information about their particular claim or calculation,” Feinberg said. He said that claims agents answering his operation’s telephone hotline had gained access to more information and could provide explanations for payments, and pledged that “I will be, in the next couple of weeks, putting more local people in field in the Gulf to have live bodies there to respond to these very same questions.”

About 38,000 claims are currently under review by Feinberg. [PDF] Another 55,000 have been sent back to claimants for more documentation. Since Feinberg assumed control of the claims process on Aug. 23, 66,000 claims have been approved for payment.

Claimants say information is still hard to come by even after the changes described by Feinberg. More than three dozen participants in ProPublica’s BP Claims Project, which monitors the claims process by following the experiences of applicants, told us this week that they were having trouble getting information about their claims. (If you’ve filed a damage claim for the Gulf oil spill, you can tell a reporter about your experience.)

Erin LaGreco, who filed a claim with Feinberg on Aug. 24, said that no one has been able to tell her why her application is still under review. She said she calls the claims operation’s telephone hotline every day and has visited two different field offices, but nobody can give her any answers. Laid off from a part-time job as a reservationist at the Alabama vacation community Martinique on the Gulf, LaGreco’s bills are piling up: she’s two months behind in rent and is worried that soon she may have to choose between her home and the car that her husband drives to work.

“When I tell them that,” LaGreco said of the claims agents she speaks to, “all I get is ‘I understand what you’re going through, but there’s nothing else we can do.’”

LaGreco said that claims agents at the hotline tell her that they have no way of reaching the claims reviewers. “The best person you could talk to is the supervisor, and they turn around and tell you the same thing,” she said.

LaGreco originally filed her claims while BP was running the process—she received two emergency checks then – but has yet to receive anything since she filed with Feinberg. On Sept. 8, she was told by Feinberg’s operation that her claim was being expedited because of her financial problems. But nearly three weeks later, with no decision on her claim, she said went into a field office and was then instructed to write a letter explaining her situation and attach it to her file.

Under Feinberg, claims pass from intake in local offices and online to software processing in Ohio, and finally to an evaluation by about 25 reviewers based in Washington, D.C., who are the ones who make the calculations and decisions about payments. Two contractors who have worked in Feinberg’s operation told ProPublica that front-line employees who interact with claimants cannot communicate directly with the decision-makers.

Mike Kahn, who said he worked for a subcontractor on the claims process last month responding to high-priority e-mails from applicants facing emergencies, said that all he could do to help claimants was to request documents proving their emergencies and put their information into a spreadsheet that he sent to his supervisor. He said that he did not know how the information was used, and that he had no way of directly contacting anyone with decision authority.

“We didn’t have the answers for them as much as we might have wanted to,” said Kahn, who described corresponding with claimants who were losing their homes, health insurance and their ability to pay for medication.

A claims evaluator based in a field office in the Gulf, who asked to remain anonymous in order to keep his job, also said that all he could do was input claimants’ data into the system. He said that he could write an e-mail to his boss, who would in turn send it on to other offices in Feinberg’s operation asking for a claim to be prioritized. Like Kahn, the evaluator said could not directly contact anyone with decision power and had no idea what happened with claimants’ information after he sent it on.

Feinberg confirmed to ProPublica that “the major calculations and the final decisions” are made by roughly 25 final reviewers employed by the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and said that this arrangement was necessary to ensure consistency of payments. Feinberg said that sending an e-mail was the appropriate step for field staff seeking to help an individual claimant. (Feinberg's office didn't immediately respond to our question about frontline workers' ability to communicate with decision-makers.) 

Feinberg said that although the employees he is putting in the field in the coming weeks will not have the authority to make payments, they will be able to offer answers to claimants on the spot.

“They will have direct access to the particular claim where they will be able to get particular information right then and there to respond to inquiries,” Feinberg said.

I don’t think anyone has a couple weeks to wait for him to put people in the offices that still will not have the ability to help. we are all 45 days or so in to a 2 day promise there is no way this was not intentional. I have underestimated a amount of work before. But i have never undershot it by 2250% . That Can only happen if you are very stupid or a lair. I think at this point it is obvious that Ken Fiend-burg is both

Thank you for this article Sasha. I am one of thousands who has been “under review” since August 25 with no explanation. I have now hired an attorney who has very, very reasonable fees. They are a very large, high profile firm. I think their fees are so low because they feel our pain and I think they really want to advocate for us.They say they are getting results quickly even with claims that have been denied. I just FedExed all my docs this a.m. I will keep everyone here posted to the progress.
btw..I love those stats..undershot by 2250%!!!

Really is any one surprised that the process setup for claimants is one that would assure success for them. The gent in charge will assure the pay out benefits BP.

BP is a company with no scruples.

AGAIN today when I called the GCCF 800 number ...it goes straight to voicemail and says leave your number and you will be called back….I have left SEVEN messages and have yet to receive a call.  Last nite at midnight I finally got thru and they told me don’t bother to leave a message cause you wont get a call back.  My claim is still under review going on 3 weeks.

i finally got my claim paid…i emailed gccf every day, telling and retelling my story.  i had to file a couple of supplementals and wrote handwritten letters to go along with them detailing my experiences.  all my documentation had been received but it wasn’t until i filed the supplemental that i got any attention. 1 supp i took to the gccf field office, the other supp i priority mailed to dublin.  it must have worked because my 6 month was ‘true-upped’ after 6 long weeks of review.  the timing was good, because i just lost my job.

I spoke to a supervisor from the excultion department
and he said that my claim is in the final stage what he meant by the I don’t dame know. But when I asked him how lont the final stage and he told me that he did not know I knew it was a lie. Then I asked him about the GCCF Program statisics that it was saying need additional documentation he told me to disreguard that because they hace all of my doucment so what that is telling me is that they lied they do not up date there wsbsite daily. And I found out that they or either letting go people or hiring more people because I spoke to 4 people in the last 2 days that was just hired and trained last wednesday

Kit you sent out more than one supplimental of the same thing? I sent in a supplimental and it says under review. Also I don’t think it takes much training to answer the phone and say the same thing each time. I hope everyone is keeping money out for taxes because they will hit hard after the first of the year.

“The Feinberg organization, which has been paid $2.5 million to administer the claims fund so far, reports that it has paid 40 percent of the 150,000 claims it’s received nationally, versus only about a third of the 56,000 Louisiana claims filed through Monday.  “http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/10/oil_spill_claims_administrator_5.html

wonder how many are in the organization.

day 51 now and still under review

Feinbergs operation is missing one important facet of american life, the QUEUE.  We Americans are a patient lot if we stand in line and know when our turn is next.  But there is no rhyme or reason to his processing of claims.  People are still under review who filed their claim the end of August while people who filed in October are getting paid.  This is not nuclear science GCCF!!!! Process claims in some semblence of the order they came in and help out thousands of alienated claimants.
 


sciece

I filed with BP in late may, Turned everything over to GCCF on Aug23 am still “under review.”  I have recently called the NPFC and started my claims process with them.  This is my last attempt before I pursue damages with an attourney.  Fienberg has done nothing but Deny, delay, and distract just like an insurance company.

I know of one property management company in OB AL that is making up false reservations, then cancelling them and claiming lost revenue with BP and with GCCF.  People like this are the reason for many of the delays for payments to people who really need and deserve them.

well humphrey , turn them in to the hotline and report them for it.

almost day 52 now still under review and no information as always, to bad this news company would not do more for us ,why they lie to us so much , never can find out anything at all.

I filed with BP in June.  They approved me mid Aug. and said my check would be cut by GCCF.  I refiled on Aug. 23rd.  Still under review.  My pay is down over $10,000 from last year.  The company I work for filed the same day I did and were paid weeks ago.  I have been esculated for 3 weeks.  I have submitted a letter of hardship along with late notices and letters of collection.  Still under review.  I just don’t know what to do.  I call and email everyday. NOTHINIG

I said GCCF is full of s**t

now they are telling people there is a payroll payment team incharge and paying claims over the adusters and telling everyone that their claim is being paid toady , and its lies , all lies ,

filed my company claim today , lets see witch one gets paid first, my first claim or my company claim.

Monday will be 8 weeks and still under review.  I just don’t understand?  They did tell me that I was raised to the payment team but did not know how long that would take.

Sam what is the payment team

Vigilance against fraud pledged by Gulf claims boss‎


I just heard this on the news. I think there will be some that have to give the money back.

sam they told me that told friday and saturday, i guess they dont work sunday, and L its anew team that is handling our claims that are the old ones, they are looking into why we are not paid already and supposed to pay us right away

day 54 or 55 losing track, we will see if my company claim or my claim is paid first

Darryl who told you that

8 weeks today and STILL under review.  They tell my it is on the last level (the payment team).

still under review since aug 24 i cant get thru to them it goes straight to voicemail.Have spoken to them 10 days ago my claim was “escalated” code for ignored any help would be great at least im not alone.

Nicole, send them a email and include your phone #.  That is how I have gotten the best response.

i talked to the new payment team on the phone

I called feinberg office to find out about my claim and the are looking at the distance your business is from the gulf region so that is what the hild up is

Darryl what did the payment team say?

they said a new payment team is incharge of all the old claim and to find out why we have been under review so long and to make payments to us and to figure out how much to pay us within 48 to 72 hours, thats what they said, friday, saturday they said i was being paid and they were looking at how much to pay me, and they would call soon as they figured it out, well i have heard nothing and still under review, so who knows

i live on the gulf coast , like 3 miles from it , my job was on the gulf, in the shipyards, you can not get any closer then being in the water, my company is wildlife rescue , i was on stand- by with bp and fish and wildlife federal angency, i work across the usa with my company , im registered with all federal agencys and the government, i have federal contacts and can have things done faster then most wildlife rescues, im registered with usda, fish & wildlife,  fema , to many to list, im also a hurricane shelter , here in florida, i do wildlife , equine rescue, i work with aphis, of the usda, i work with federal grants and more, im working to make hurricane shelters across the gulf states for all states for wildlife and equine , horses otherwise,  people dont have a place to take them , i help people across the usa, i help a woman in californa , she had 12 horses and the wild fires were at her doorstep and left and needed aplace to go she called the federal government they gave her my number , she called me on her way , she was in nevada , and i told her to stop, i called radio jock imus in new mexico , and sent her there , its closer, i was afraid the horses would not make the long trip here, i have many friends in the rescue ORG.s we all care very much. its hard on us we do it out of our own pockets alot.

Darryl did you call the claim number to find out this. and who did you speak to.

Darryl:You and your friends have a heart, and GOD always blesses someone like you with a caring heart for both animal and people..

yes the 800 916 4893, call center, they supposed to have the payment team close by

i have gone without alot to help others and animals, i have many vets ,  techs, people to help in rescue if i need them, im tring to get the government more involved with all of us, aphis is getting involved more now, they dont put up with anything anymore, they will lock people up in a heart beat, so much more could have been done up there during the oil , but to get the federal agencys to listen is hard, and they did what they thought was good there, here is alot differnt, one call to aphis and i could have teams of them in a minute, or fish & wildlife, alot differnt here .

if you call from the same number all the time they can see that and will be directed to them , you should here a beep beep when put on hold, its to transfer you to the team , instead of the call reps

your claim info wont change untill the update changes one time a day, every nite it changes , same as the stats change, your status will stay the same untill the whole system changes at the same time witch is at nite or early morning when the system changes, even the call center computer will not show anything differnt untill it changes unless they cut a check or do wire transfer,  the payroll team can see it all, and find out more then the call reps, the call reps are for taking new claims , and to just give basic info on our claims

day 55 now this is such bullshit

i guess everyone else got paid already

no not everyone…i’ve been waiting since 8/23 and getting the same bullshit also. I called gccf and asked to speak to the payment team and the girl said she couldn’t transfer me, i then said ok well have them call me back asap. Oh course no return call. On Sunday afternoon i had 2 missed calls from them but they don’t leave a damn message…great customer service i would say…and miss leading info..on the statics report everyday since the 10/12 i went from under review to claimants paid and approved payment..umm i don’t think they should be able to do that and then hold off paying people. I’m sure they are doing that so it looks good for them. oh well you posted info that i was paid so pay me damnit.

Still under review.  They will not let me talk to the payment team.  I just don’t get it.  They put me on with a supervisor and all they tell is the same crap.
It has been over 8 weeks for many of us!!!  I wish I knew what to do.

I HAVE THE NUMBER TO THE ADJUSTERS OFFICE NOW

Still under review since 8/23, sent more documentation, financial statement, ect, changed from documentation to still under review, can’t talk to anyone since now it’s just a voice mail, before they HIRED more people to answer phones I could always talk to someone even though they did not have any more info than I did, we should be working answering the phones, what a great job. So frustrating, even the phone people are frustrated. I live on the Beach, and Weddings are what I do on weekends. So tired of this daily insanity.

THEY ARE IN VIRGINIA

So glad I found this site to read, at least I don’t feel alone in this bull.  Seems like they are just going to wait us out till we go away, I knew when then the spill happened it would be a nightmare for us. When I see the BP ads running on what all they are doing I want to blow up the TV, and the Fienberg was going to make us all whole, It turned from Bad to Worse

i got the number to the adjusters office , they said they will call me back in two hours, and then i will put it on here for all of us to call. so hang on people

Thanks Darryl, I hope you get some relief and appreciate all your information and updates.

i found the company that the adjusters are at in virginia , and called already they are working on having them call me, if they dont we all will call and bug the shit out of them

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