Tuesday, 12 April 2011 19:00

BP Oil Spill Claim Process GCCF Is Road Home to Misery

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April 20th looms large among those of us who are still trying to receive some justice from the BP oil spill of nearly a year ago.  On that date those who have received no compensation, despite the legitimacy of their claim, must make a decision.  Either they can trust the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) to eventually do them justice, or they can join the class action suit against BP et al.  Because, make no mistake about it, if you fail to join the suit and the GCCF denies your claim…you are OUT!!!  There are a lot of people who have claims that have never been reviewed.  I am one! 

Tags: BP Oil Spill, GCCF, gulf coast claims facility, Louisiana, class action, BP lawsuit, Katrina, road home, FEMA, Feinberg, St. Bernard, Orleans

Furthermore, GCCF currently has a program where a business can receive $25,000 for closing the case file and not filing suit.  But… after April 20th if you have not filed suit you will not be able to sue.  Will the $25,000 disappear?  It which case, it behooves GCCF to delay closing cases.


Many have no desire to join in the suit, but they fear not doing so because of a lack of faith in the GCCF process.  Example:  On a personal note I first filled out the forms and attached 92 pages of supporting documentation in July of 2010 for my small, thirty-five year old boat building business here in St. Bernard Parish.  But almost immediately after submitting my claim, BP turned operations over to GCCF.  That left me in limbo.


I then had to file again with GCCF. The problem with GCCF was that the registration procedures they employed were online and did not take into account some of the unique aspects of many businesses, especially seasonable businesses.  Such being the case, filing became a real problem, if not impossible, because there was no flexibility in the process and no one to talk to.  Since you could only file online at that time, many could not file because the questions asked did not relate to their business situation.


Finally, when my business loses began to mount, I filed another claim on December 2, 2010 by going directly to a claims office.  According to their rules they have 90 days to respond.  However, that 90 day period begins when THEY open the file, NOT when they receive the file. I went to the GCCF office in St. Bernard on December 2nd, but they did not review the file until December 31st… nearly a full month later.  That pushed back my case. 


 Since that date, whenever I check the GCCF website for an update on my claim status I got a note that simply said: “Received”.   Nothing more.


Worse, the clock starts over whenever new information hits your file.  Since they delayed my case past 2010, GCCF then requested additional information after December. They now wanted documents about the last quarter.  Did this decision to demand all of 4th quarter statistics re-start the clock?  How is that fair! 


Frustrated, I sent an email to GCCF seeking clarification, since it has now been over 90 days.  A very nice gentleman responded by phone to say in essence that he knows nothing, but that at least his call should make me feel better.


Time is passing, no response from GCCF, and the end date for joining in the class action suit approaches…what to do???  Then finally, April 8th, I receive an email requesting the very 4th quarter documents I sent to them in February 2011.  Those documents were even reviewed by their claims office in St. Bernard and I was told that everything was in order.  How maddening can this get?!? How many times does one have to send in the same information to GCCF?!?!?


 With each passing day the Gulf Coast Claims Facility resembles a replay of the ICF and Louisiana Road Home. Even the initials resemble one another.  In both instances there appears to be no rhyme or reason for decisions made, denial of benefits, or long delays.  Claimants are cast adrift, penalized by bureaucratic bumbling while time rapidly runs out. 


What is particularly sad is that so many people who had questionable claims at best took advantage of the process to make a lot of money.  While others, who live in the immediate area of the disaster and suffered unquestioned losses are left hanging in the wind wondering what is to happen to them, their families, and their businesses.


Making matters worse, claimants now learn that Mr. Feinberg’s law firm’s compensation for working the BP claims has been increased from $850,000 PER MONTH to $1.25 MILLION PER MONTH!!!!!    Is one supposed to assume that this increase in salary was a reward for a job well done?  If so, what determined the criteria for that massive miscalculation?  If this writer is not mistaken, ICF received a raise for mishandling the Road Home as well.  Obviously, it pays well to be connected and incompetent!


Having lost faith in the efficiency of government agencies and quasi- government agencies back in 2005-08 with FEMA and Road Home, the experience with GCCF should not have come as a surprise.  Thus, one must assume the only way to possibly find some justice is through the legal system.  The problem here is that it could take decades before a final settlement is made and the attorneys will likely walk off with most of the funds.  By that time claimants will be beyond help.


Those of us who have fallen through the cracks have only a few days to make what likely will turn out to be a fateful decision.  It is so sad it has come to this because once again the many residents of New Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard Parishes who are victims of avoidable human disasters (bad levees & oil spills), are now once again subjected to a brutally incompetent process for providing the help they so desperately need…the Road Home and the Gulf Coast Claims Office sadly share too much in common!

by Ron Chapman

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