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For Some Oil Spill Victims, Claims Have Been ‘Under Review’ for Weeks

ProPublica reported yesterday that claimants are “struggling to get basic information” about the status of 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.

I’ve received a number of calls and emails from claimants raising the same concerns. There has been a marked improvement in the process, with more than 64,000 claims paid as of yesterday. Feinberg, who is overseeing the claims process, says thousands of claims can’t be processed because they lack proper documentation. According to the latest statistics, some 58,000 claims need more documentation.

But the issue of concern for many in the Gulf region is the more than 38,000 claims that remain “under review.” Feinberg, in an interview with me last week, stressed that the the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has caught up with its initial backlog of claims. Any claims that have the proper documentation should be processed quickly.

Three people have told me that they filed claims with the GCCF in August and still have not been paid. Their claims, they say, remain “under review,” and they are having a difficult time determining when a decision will be made.

In fact, one claimant told me the GCCF’s helpline had been sending all callers to voicemail since Monday. It previously gave callers an option to talk to a GCCF representative. I called the helpline yesterday and, sure enough, it sent me to voicemail.

I then called Feinberg’s office to ask about the phone system. Amy Weiss, a spokeswoman for Feinberg’s office, responded in an email an hour later that she “didn’t know of any technical issues.” When I called the helpline again around 4 p.m. yesterday, it appeared to be fixed, as it gave me an option to talk to a GCCF representative.

I’ve asked Feinberg’s office on numerous occasions for an estimate of the number of claims that remain “under review” that were filed in August or early on in the GCCF claims process. I’ve also asked several times if there have been GCCF employees assigned to claims that have been “under review” for weeks or months. I have not received answers to these questions.

I will update when I get a response.

If you are experiencing similar issues with your claims, email me: arestuccia@washingtonindependent.com

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