Journalism in the Public Interest

Some Gulf Spill Claimants Waiting for Months: Feinberg Blames Tricky Policy Decisions

Some claimants from the Gulf oil spill have been waiting for months without a decision, and claims czar Ken Feinberg says the problem is in deciding, ‘What should we do with that claim?’


Kenneth Feinberg testifies on Capitol Hill on Oct. 21, 2010, in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Since Gulf spill claims czar Kenneth Feinberg took over from BP in late August, many claimants have reported that their applications have remained under review for months and that they have not yet received decisions.

Roughly 71,000 claims are currently under review, according to statistics from Feinberg's operation (PDF). Feinberg's program does not provide statistics on how long claimants have been waiting. But ProPublica and the Washington Independent have both spoken to numerous claimants who say their applications have been in limbo for over a month.

In an interview with ProPublica, Feinberg said that some of these long delays were caused by claims that created difficult policy judgments for his operation.

"There are some claims where we sit on that claim trying to figure out under the Oil Pollution Act, or under our guidelines, whether or not to pay," Feinberg said, referring the 1990 federal law that guides the claims process. "We don't want to deny it; on the other hand we can't grant it. And we're trying to figure out internally what to do."

Examples of such complex claims, Feinberg said, could include a furniture store or beer distributor on the beach, where the link between the claimant's losses and the spill is difficult to assess.

Feinberg's spokeswoman, Amy Weiss, said in an e-mail that there is no fixed timeframe for resolving those claims but that the "overwhelming number of pending claims were filed after Oct. 1." Last month, Weiss told the Washington Independent that about 8,000 claims had been under review for more than two weeks. She did not provide a more recent figure in response to our inquiries on Monday.

"Most policy issues are resolved in a matter of days," Weiss said. "But we may put a few ‘on hold' to figure out the consequences in terms of impact and consistency."

So far, Feinberg's operation has received about 385,000 claims overall, and roughly 114,000 have been approved for payment. Feinberg said that the most common reason for claims to stall was insufficient documentation by applicants. There are currently about 143,000 claims that require more documentation, more than twice as many as the amount that are under review.

Linda Smith has been waiting since Aug. 25 without a decision on her claim. Smith's restaurant, the Alligator Creole Café, is in Houston, Texas, far from where the oil washed ashore. But she said that her top-selling dishes were seafood from the Gulf and that she had to close her doors this summer when she could no longer get supplies.

"I'm a little mom and pop establishment," Smith said. "I would sell 13 or 14 catfish plates a day."

She said that in the months that her claim has been under review, she has had to sell her restaurant's refrigerator, freezer and china in order to be able to pay rent on the property.

Feinberg's eligibility criteria state that his program will evaluate claims based on "geographic proximity to the Spill, the nature of the claimant's job or business, and the extent to which the claimant's job or business is dependent upon injured property or natural resources." But the guidelines do not specify how these factors will be weighed.

Feinberg said that delays in cases like Smith's were based on the tough decisions they required rather than mishandling or a lack of capacity. "That's not a mechanical problem," Feinberg said. "That's a problem of, ‘What should we do with that claim?' And that's the reason for the delay."

Delays and partial payments on claims have been a source of frustration for businesses in particular. Last week, Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama denounced Feinberg's claims process as "extortion" -- final payments from Feinberg require claimants to forgo their right to sue -- and wrote Feinberg a letter demanding additional information about how he was responding to business claims.

Feinberg told ProPublica that about 85 percent of businesses that had been found to be eligible for compensation had been paid in full, a statistic that was previously not disclosed by his operation.

"Be careful in making the assumption that it is inefficiency or incompetence that lies at the heart of delayed business claims," Feinberg said. "I don't buy it, I don't believe it, and we have paid in full thousands and thousands of business claims."

But for claimants like Smith, the reason for the delays matters less than the check that has not arrived.

"If you know how to pay the fisherman, why can't you pay us?" Smith said.

OK so why is this Hotel Security Guard from Panama city Beach Florida, where we got direct hit from oil , still unpaid? What could be so complicated, and all my info and docs have been sitting there forever as well ....

A dead business is a dead business, be that a shrimper, a sport entertainment company, restaurant or beach situated umbrella rental operation.

I originally filed with BP, then was forced to refile under the new GCCF claims process and did so 8-27-2010. I have been in detailed review for compensation for the past month, and was called yesterday by the garden City Group to tell me that no decision has been made yet.

We have lost any chance to recover from our Summer 2010 and Holiday 2010 Sales opportunities. It is just that simple, and unfortunately our company is not alone. Is it simple enough to see that the entire Gulf Coast Region was adversely affected by the BP oil spill, Mr. Feinberg you must know that the continued delays are ruining lives and destroying businesses when business investment is crucial to an economic recovery.

Happy Holidays to all my fellow claimants and I do wish you and your families the very best.


If this is the case, why dont they inform those who are in this catagory!!!!
“There are some claims where we sit on that claim trying to figure out under the Oil Pollution Act, or under our guidelines, whether or not to pay,” Feinberg said, referring the 1990 federal law that guides the claims process. “We don’t want to deny it; on the other hand we can’t grant it. And we’re trying to figure out internally what to do.”

John Que 3000

Nov. 16, 2010, 1:57 p.m.

OK Mr. Feinberg here is a simple question.

What is more believable that a beach located Hotel employee lost wages from lack of tourist dollars, a volleyball tournament was canceled because of the threat of oil, a woman lost her business because of lack of tourism caused by media hyping the oil?


BP the number 2 energy company in the world with renowned engineers and scientist on their payroll couldn’t figure out how to stop an oil leak for 60 days?

That’s right Both Are True.

PAY UP!!!!!!!!!!

“Most policy issues are resolved in a matter of days,” Weiss said. “But we may put a few ‘on hold’ to figure out the consequences in terms of impact and consistency.” if that’s the case then maybe you guys should ask for more information from the claim holder. my deck hands got paid a month ago, but i’m just a partner on the boat, so i guess i don’t count huh?

What about denied claims! He makes no sense give us the details of how it was decided! it’s a bunch of BS!


The GCCF will apply industry-specific criteria in determining the appropriate amount of emergency compensation, including factors like seasonality. Every claim will receive individual consideration and be evaluated on case-specific facts.

Oils well that end well

Nov. 16, 2010, 2:13 p.m.

It seems a little foolish to try and make policy decisions on situations like fish from the gulf not being able to be sold at a restaurant on the Gulf. What the heck? It the claim for five grand even ten it seems stupid to deny it because the fish come from the gulf. I can’t wait for the congressional hearings that come from this here article…..damn stalling to find a way not to pay and save BP some money. Heck all the money BP pays out will be recovered in tax breaks and increased cost of oil to us claim folks anyways. You add att the numbers up and even if the gccf paid everyone there would still be billions left in the fund…...

I don’t care why they are stalling and i don’t believe that they have paid business claims in full because the last time i checked Alabama Claims details is said zero final claims paid. My business partner attempted suicide because of the stress from the loss of income…i hate the gccf

well my son put in his claim in october and it is still under review they say they dont need any more information and they have all the documentation but still not paid what is the problem there lost wages proven pay the damn claims and quit telling lies about why you are not

They dont even know where these businesses are located in proximity to the beach ...or..they look at it and see” furniture store” and say how could a furniture store possibly be affected by the oil spill…its the domino effect !!!! and the dominos are still falling we were all hurt is some way or another

I guess Daryll got paid he hasn’t posted lately…??

He may be laying low, they did put all his personal info on here, and he did say he was worried this would have repercussions in his real life…..
But for his sake , I hope they paid him :) and he is very happy somewhere right now , paying off bills and buying his wife a nice Christmas gift :)

omg im so sorry tracey i know it is a bunch of crap the way they are doing people

Strippers are being paid $10,000 to $80,000
Car salesmen are being paid $20,000
Self Serve Laundry Mat was paid $42,000
Pony Ride Business paid $60,000
Furniture store paid $208,000
Doggie Day Care paid $14,000
Portable car washer paid $30,000
Flea market paid $55,000 (35 miles from Ocean)

All documented and was in the press sometime between August 30th to November 1st 2010

DO NOT SIGN YOUR RIGHTS AWAY.  That is what Fienberg is trying to push us into a corner to do.  I call it BLACKMAIL.

Hey Shasa Chaukin

Did the GCCF tell you why they took down the Claims details for each state, and when it will be available again?

Puppet don’t forget they paid wait staff $12K and final offer of $72K!!  They are denying the wrong people!

christine-that is sad I hope he finally got paid too!

What an INSANE battle this has been…I thought BP was bad….until I had to deal with the GCCF!  I FINALLY got most of my emergency payment claim paid but it was simply unbelieveable what I had to do to get it even mostly paid. Much too long of a story to post here.  I am Sooo grateful to have gotten some money & my heart & prayers go out to all of you still waiting, but in the end….the way that the GCCF treated me like I was a dishonest person & put me through downright humiliating, belittling conversations - having to beg & cry for only what was due to me. I worked in seafood processing in Biloxi & had a VERY documented file showing my loss of income. I just don’t think that I can mentally or emotionally go through this again trying to get a final claim. I think that I’ll have to hire an attorney to fight the next battle & that really sucks because that means even more of a loss.

Oh yeah….everybody needs to be contacting all of these newly elected congressmen & representatives and telling them that they need to FIRE FEINBERG….or at least pressure Obama into replacing him. Obama REALLY screwed up putting this man in charge….he’s an $850,000 a month miserable failure!!!!!  LIEBERG…

Every word out of his mouth is a lie. Not one business i know in the beach area has been paid anywhere near the amount they claimed.
Many of my employees are being paid 6 months with no problems but the company is not. They have the full story and all the documentation.
They are forcing businesses to starve so they will be put into a final settlement.  Meanwhile lenders and creditors are charging default interest while they are not being paid.
Feinberg is in it with BP and BP is having a say about all of these big claims.
The states must act to take away the power from Feinberg. He is a fraud.

It,s very simple, he is not going to pay claims until after 11/23/10 & make everybody sign there right to sue. I know I,m from ms. & not educated like Mr feinberg, but when a program only has paid out a very small percent of the claims, something is wrong with the program. Mr feinberg set the program up & we followed his rules, BUT WE SUFFER & ALL WE DID IS FOLLOW HIS PROGRAM.SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG

Catfish lover

Nov. 16, 2010, 5:21 p.m.

About the Houston busness filing a claim cuz she couldn’t serve gulf seafood are you FOR REAL????  I’ve never heard of Gulf catfish

I have heard of gulf catfish…

what I have heard is this,
Take a cast iron skillet , heat 3 tablespoons of oil nice and hot , take your cleaned , breaded gulf catfish and turn it a nice golden brown in the pan , lightly bronzing each side. Then throw out the fish and eat the skillet for a better meal…

BUT that’s just personal opinion, some people probably LOVE it :)

John Que 3000

Nov. 16, 2010, 6:23 p.m.

The restaurant in Texas has a right to file a claim if they loose money.

Gulf of Mexico Saltwarter catfish.;=4922&mode=2&in_hi_userid=2&cached=true

They also have a right to be treated with respect by the GCCF, something that shouldn’t be an issue from the other commenter either…...

@ catfish lover my restaurant is in Houston but I am from Breaux Bridge Louisiana and all of my seafood is from Louisiana. I do not purchase any seafood from Houston because the people I deal with is from my neck of the wood.

william woodham

Nov. 16, 2010, 6:24 p.m.

i am a commerical fisherman,Ihave recieved one payment of #3,200.00back in sept.Inoctember i filed 5suppmentals and still am underreview it has been 46 days and still no relife all supporting doc.are in order my power has been turned off,my phone is next,my neibor keeps what food i have left for me if it was not for fireplace i would not be able to cook and stay warm at night i am a true country boy so if you think you have it bad puy your self in my shoes,the landloard will be knocking next wanting his rent someone tell me whay is wrong with this picture please

The comments posted here need to be copied and sent on to the White House. We are all suffering while Feinberg plays,  enee, meanie, my-nee mo, selecting who gets paid and whose life he decides to ruin next.

Happy Holidays Mr. Feinberg and GCCF, happy friggen holidays indeed.

If your restaurant cant sell catfish from the gulf because of BPs mess, then you should be paid.

Once it is documented your legit , why is he holding off?
It makes no sense, I can see saying .. Ohh look no tax info, lets wait and keep reviewing , but those of us who have everything in should be paid.

Can we files a civil suite against fienberg. Isn’t this something like a breech of contract. He promise something then went back on his words.

ok.  let me say dont make a mistake on your claim form..  it cant be correctted,  have to wait for final payments.  so I am told.
I am a chef (unemployed)  I made mistake on my form
and was paid $1000.00 for six months,  I have tried so many times to correct,
I have seen so many collect money from BP and have not lost a day’s work or a paycheck.. 
this is not right… 
Oh another point office hours are not 24/7 anymore.
just leave a message and we will call you back..
dont hold your breath

I tried to be honest and only filed a one month emergency claim when I got laid off 4 months ago. It took 2 months for them to decide I was eligible and I received a check for 1 month lost income. I have subsequently filed supplemental months. I was declared eligible why in the world would it take 2 months to make further payments (I have yet to receive any more money)???  All I get is I’m still under review… what, I’ve already been declared eligible!!!!  I really don’t see how something could be more screwed up!!!

I guess I should have asked for 6 months in the beginning even though I wasn’t impacted yet…........

Still I wait…  It has been since June that I submitted my claim to BP it was being paid by ESIS, and I was assured that it would be paid by GCCF but Lieburg is in charge.  I submitted everything to GCCF three times and am still waiting. First I was told that everything was lost, then yhe files got corrupt, then I am still “under review.” Aug 23 they got my claim, I have been escalated twice.  Now I have the NPFC working my claim.  This is complete BS.  F*CK BP F*CK LIEBURG F*CK GCCF!!!!

Thank You Pro-Publica

william woodham

Nov. 16, 2010, 7:41 p.m.

i was getting checks every month from Bp since the ggcf took over i have gotten 1they say everything is in oder on documents they should be or i wouldn~t got the first check they exclated my statices in Oct so my power would not be turned off WHAT A BIG PILE OF LIES WILL BE NEXT Fienberg can`thelp but LIE TO US because HE IS A LAWYER and EVERYBODY knows that LAWYERS ARE GOOD AT LIEING

we got paid by BP exactly what we lost at that point, but it was pulling teeth to get it.  we did file with the GCCF on august 23 and we received the payments in dribs and drabs and had to fight for every dime,  finally ‘trueing us up’ in October.  since we filed we lost our jobs and another 2 months of money for September & October.  we worked directly on the beach for a condo rental company and our losses were directly related to the oil spill, we had a boatload of docs and it still took 8 weeks for payment from GCCF.  even though it took forever, we are grateful they paid us anything.  just talk to a katrina, ivan, or exxon valdez survivor, this is cake compared to those fights.  good luck to all of you, everyone deserves to be paid for their losses.

I know of one person who finally got his business claim paid after working through Senator Bill Nelson’s office (Florida).  I received payment for an initial claim filed on 8/23 that took 6 weeks and an expedited claim at the meeting that took place in AL.  I have since filed 2 supplemental claims, one for August and one for September, and am “under review”.  I call and they tell me they have everything, just check the website…  They paid one claim, my loss is for lost rental income that is well documented, very straightforward and they paid one claim so obviously I’m not a “tough policy decision”.  This is so frustrating, and no way I am filing a final claim.

John Que 3000

Nov. 16, 2010, 8:09 p.m.

I haven’t heard of any other deposits being made to the GCCF trust since the first $2 Billion. I think they are running out of cash.
BP needs to get another deposit in the fund so we can get paid. maybe that is why Feinberg is stalling.

Come on Feinberg—we are all so tired of your bullshit excuses.  Your being paid $850,000 a month to make these tough decisions so do it instead of running one of the most chaotic and inefficient businesses ever seen by modern man.  If this was a regular business you would have been fired weeks ago.  My claim was filed on 8/23, its a restaurant on the water with over 90% of our sales from tourists.  Our sales went down 36% after the oil spill.  Its not rocket science, either pay the claim or deny it.  But you know i dont care anymore because now its in the hands of attorneys and you will pay 2 to 3 times what you could have paid on my claim. But if your excuse of the week is you have to make tough decisions than make them and earn some of that excessive pay your getting from BP.

John Que 3000

Nov. 16, 2010, 8:11 p.m.

Melissa, $100K for six months I didn’t know Gulf Coast Restaurants earned so much. Or are you saying you were overpaid?

Isn’t it interesting that Feinburg a Washington attorney has a ghost address in Ohio. I was informed they only receive mail there and forward it, when asked where, I was informed could not be given that information. I am in New Orleans, La. employed by a major Casino in the buffet that serves a tremendous seafood night and several other promotions involving seafood. My hours were cut drastically, after the spill, of course business was lax and they could not keep everyone on a 40 hour a week basis. I went into the BP claims center brought check stubs prior to the spill as well as after the spill, brought 2 years of income tax records. I was on review from Sept. 23, 2010 to today at which point I was denied: the reason was that the oil spill did not contribute to my loss of income. Yet, McDonald’s and Taco bell employees were paid within 72 hours, and large payments at that. None of the servers at my poe were eligible, all denied, cooks, servers, host/hostess all people that make their money servicing guest that come into the casino, and believe me many came due to the specials, that we no longer have. There are rules that need to be satisfied according to OPA1990, I am trying to mitigate additional damages, I have already been evicted and living from pillow to post,due to my hours not being enough to compensate for a home of my own. I wonder if the federal government knows that Feinberg is not adhering to federal law, or that he does not care. He is being compensated and so is his scripted staff, and now I am looking into punitive damages against Feinburg, since he has no concern for the inconsistentices his adjusters are displaying in critiquing claims and applying additional hardships on already immensly hurting individuals on the Gulf Coast. There is not a appeal at the emergency level, so that leaves you to file a claim for a final. Why when the adjuster is saying that you don’t qualify, do to the spill not being essential in your loss of income. Oh, you out there that have received funds remember to set aside at least 33% because you will recieve a 1099 to add to your w2 this year. You will be paying taxes on those funds, and of course BP the problem child will be getting a tax break, by issuing the 1099’s.sSo their punishment is not that severe is it

How did you get your claim escalted anybody? I called tonight and same ole thing under review. I can’t tell you anything else but its being looked at.

also for those of you poor souls that filed a 1 month claim—if you got paid that one month you wont get paid anymore until you file a final claim.thats straight from the GCCF today. If you didnt get paid that one month you can change it to a 6 month claim but of course its going to take you weeks to get that change processed. Another lie by Feinberg.

still waiting filed BP aug 4 and GCCF aug 24 so i thought this was interesting I went to the claims site today and the woman there ran my number and she said “no news is good news”? plus she said “Well they opened up making payments again” I said i wasnt aware of them ever stopping and she said ” I didnt mean that?” she said I meant that they are making more payments whatever .... I want to thank everyone here, GOD bless all of us and PRO PUBLICA you guys are the best keep on his slippery lying ass..

come on you all.  If they can’t a shrimper right yet, how are they going to get yousr right.  I am a shrimper and own my own boat, shrimp from Venice to Grand Isle Louisiana and they say I don’t qualify.  They have all my paper and Taxes too. Used to make a good living.  Gand Isle is hosting a Rally on Nov. 20 @ 1pm on main highway to protest Feinberg.  World news will be there come join me and tell the world how we are being treated.  Right now bad exposure will hurt them alot.

John Que 3000

Nov. 16, 2010, 8:58 p.m.

I’m surprised that nobody has taken a shot at these GCCF clowns. How much insults can we to bear before the lead starts flying?
I sold off my shotgun to pay the rent.

Why do you think he going to get your claims right when he never figure out a shrimping claim yet.  A direct total lost of shrimping and Feinberg said I don’t quailify for a settlement.  That all we do for a living.  We fish in grand Isle Louisiana and they still have half the water close and The other water was flush with fresh water.  Filed taxes as fisherman, sent every legal document and still says we don’t qualify but we can file a final claim and then have some one look at it.  I think we should do a class action law suit on a 6 months settlement, maybe then thet they will take notice I bet Mr. Feinberg is getting his money, and I’d bet his is off the top.  need more exposure.  Need more rallys, marches to expose him to the world.  It kind of funny they are calling to do final settlement before they even finish with 6 months settlement.  Get your people and show the world this is wrong.  Suffering shrimping who used to make a good living

incompotent is the only word i can describe.. plain and simple. filed on 10-14… needed more info.. emailed it to them. 2 days i was at under calculated review. 2 weeks, get another letter need more info. send them the same thing, just different format this time. been almost 10 days now and they say “still have not received it” it was overnighted over 10 days ago. bout ready to give up. cut my losses aloose and forget about it.

That is what they want us to do is give up and forget!
I filed in June and so did the company I work for.  We refiled on 8/23.  Company was paid.  I was under review for over 11 weeks.  They have me under a different catagory than the company,  They denied me and every one else in the catagory of Legal, Accounting and other profess. services.  I should have never been under that in the first place.  They tell me all I can do is file a final claim.  Hello!!!! What is wrong with this picture?

Call Feinbergs New York Office Sam, Thats what I had to do to finally get someone to look at fixing my claim. I called yesterday near noon , and spoke with someone who told me to give it 24 hours and if I had not heard from GCCF by then to call them back. I called them at 10 am today and told them I hadn’t heard anything yet and the info was still incorrect . at 2pm I received a call from the call center advising they where fixing my info, and reevaluating my claim from the beginning , my status has not changed yet, so tomorrow I will be calling Feinbergs office yet again and asking NICELY if they could see why my claim seems to be stuck…

Has yours been denied or still under review?  They tell me that after denial there is nothing they can do.  They say I have to just file a final.

hey Christine how about posting that phone # so all can have a shot at feinberg office thanks if nothing else we can amke them miserable

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