Scalise Hammers Feinberg On BP Claims Fund Management

Questions proposed transfer of 150 local claims processors out of region; demands increased transparency, specific metrics on claims and payments to date

(from a release out of the office of U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Metairie)…

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Steve Scalise today blasted the handling of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) by Ken Feinberg and demanded that Mr. Feinberg demonstrate increased transparency and provide specific information on claims and payments made to date.  In a letter to Mr. Feinberg, Scalise also questioned the proposed transfer of 150 local claims processors out of the Gulf Coast region after Feinberg repeatedly stressed the importance of hiring additional local personnel.

“The people of Louisiana deserve transparency throughout the claims process and Mr. Feinberg has refused to adapt the process to better suit the needs of the people affected by the BP disaster,” Scalise said.  “The GCCF’s opaque nature detracts from its credibility and adds to claimants’ frustration as they try to understand why their claim was denied or underpaid, and Mr. Feinberg has acknowledged this problem in the past but has failed to modify the GCCF’s approach.  As a result of this, many claimants have fallen through the cracks, and can’t get answers to basic questions about their claims.  Mr. Feinberg must be held accountable to the victims of this disaster, and I eagerly await his response to my request.”

In the letter, Scalise asked Mr. Feinberg to provide:

  • All metrics on claims and payments, including the total number of both submitted and paid claims, broken down by state, city, industry, and job classification;
  • The interim and final claims formula for how payments are calculated;
  • The total number of people employed by GCCF and working on its behalf at affiliate entities, broken down by specific geographic location and employer;
  • Specific information and documentation on the decisions leading to the removal of 150 jobs at the Hammond claims processing facility, including where those jobs are being transferred;
  • The number of unprocessed six-month emergency claims and justification for why these claims remain unresolved.

The full text of the letter sent by Scalise follows below.

Dear Mr. Feinberg:

As a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the Congressman representing Louisiana’s First Congressional District, I write on behalf of the thousands of individuals and businesses in my state and along the Gulf Coast who have not yet been made whole by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The GCCF plays a critical role in helping the Gulf Coast recover, and today I request increased accountability and transparency throughout GCCF’s management of the claims process.

Firstly, I remind you that more transparency throughout the claims process is absolutely necessary. The GCCF’s opaque nature detracts from its credibility and adds to claimants’ frustration as they try to understand why their claim was denied or underpaid. You have acknowledged this problem in town hall meetings and to Congressional offices.

I also find it unacceptable that GCCF has never released the formula by which payments are evaluated, and I remind you of statements you made to Congressional staff on January 12, 2011, that you would release the method for calculating interim and final payments within 30 days.

In light of the recent announcement that local law firms will be assisting GCCF, I agree that having more evaluators and staff located in the Gulf Coast region is absolutely essential to the effectiveness and efficiency of the claims process. Claimants must have the opportunity to speak directly to someone at GCCF who can answer straightforward questions about the status of their claim and the documentation required for it to be processed.

For these reasons, I am surprised at the news that GCCF is considering eliminating about 150 jobs at the Hammond claims processing facility, especially at a time when you have repeatedly pointed to the importance of hiring additional local personnel. This move would run counter to your previous commitments, and would make it harder to get quick answers to claimants who have questions.

Additionally, I remind you of individuals and businesses who are still waiting for their six-month emergency claim to be processed. The deadline for submitting an emergency payment passed over two months ago, on November 23, 2010. These claims must be prioritized as the transition to interim payments and final settlements continues.

To address these issues, I request the following:

  1. All metrics on claims and payments, including the total number of both submitted and paid claims, broken down by state, city, industry, and job classification, and the average payment to individuals and businesses in each category;
  2. The formula for how payments are calculated;
  3. The total number of people employed by GCCF and working on its behalf at affiliate entities, broken down by specific geographic location and employer;
  4. Any job transfers or lay-offs in claims processing that GCCF has executed or is planning to execute, including justification for such moves;
  5. Specific information and documentation on the decisions leading to the removal of 150 jobs at the Hammond claims processing facility, including where those jobs are being transferred; and
  6. The number of unprocessed six-month emergency claims and justification for why these claims remain unresolved.

As you know, GCCF exists to ensure that those individuals and businesses who have experienced damages and losses through no fault of their own can return to the lifestyle they all hold so dear. I urge you to move forward in an accountable and transparent way that ensures the Gulf Coast can recover in the quickest manner possible.  I look forward to your prompt reply to my request for the above information.

Sincerely,

Steve Scalise

Member of Congress



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