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The Hurricane Sandy Claims Review process was designed last year to give Sandy victims a second shot at making a flood insurance claim if they believed their original claims had been low-balled or unjustly denied, in some cases because of allegedly fraudulent practices by private insurers or engineering firms. Unfortunately this process seems to be rampant with alleged fraud as well.
Last week a former contractor for the Federal Emergency Management Agency went on record saying that he was told to deny or underpay claims exceeding certain ranges in deciding compensation for Superstorm Sandy victims.
Jeff Coolidge said at a news conference,that he was required to deny or underpay almost all of the roughly 1,000 Sandy claims he handled during the four months he worked as a flood manager supervising a team of case workers on the claims review task force. He and other former contractors who worked on the FEMA review process submitted affidavits to Weisbrod Matteis & Copley, a law firm representing 1,300 homeowners and business owners affected by Sandy. He made his comments at a news conference held by Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., who is calling for a congressional hearing and the resignation of FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate.
Sandy victims who had hoped for help from the review process say that it’s taking too long and that they’re being treated unfairly all over again. About 100 homeowners from New Jersey and New York traveled to Washington on last Thursday to lobby members of Congress and protest outside FEMA.
It’s been reported that Augie Matteis, of Weisbrod Matteis & Copley, said “The review itself is just a second round of massive fraud.” He went on to say that his firm and others have been in touch with additional whistleblowers, and that his clients and the whistleblowers are willing to cooperate with a congressional investigation.
Matteis said none of his 1,300 clients has received a final decision on their claim yet.
“I promised FEMA that when we get that first final decision, if it’s not for every penny owed, we’re going straight to court,” he said. “You might see thousands of claims in a court if they don’t figure this out first.”
Four years later it’s hard to hear that people are still out of their homes, living in trailers or living with relatives, while the federal government hold back their efforts to be made whole again.