Posts Tagged ‘subsistence claims’
Feinberg just changed the rules again.
On Tuesday, he added a rules modification to the GCCF claims process, designed to tighten payout criteria. “It is clear, that as time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine whether changes in revenue and earnings are due to the oil spill or other factors,” the notice said.
Clear…how clear exactly?
Those (both business and individual) who continue to file interim claims must now show a 5% increase in revenue growth from 2010 to qualify for full compensation from the claims fund. Feinberg reports that businesses along the Gulf Coast are increasing their revenue on average by 10% so this 5% should be no problem, is certainly generous, and whereas this might be more accurate for those in the tourist industry, for those in the fishing industry it is less so. In justifying this growth rate for the fishing industry, Feinberg reports all federal and nearly all state fishing grounds have been reopened, there have been increases in the catch of shrimp the first four months of 2011 and a solid harvest of menhaden is expected, so all will now be well for the fishermen to continue on, recovered. Their revenue must grow by 5%, or they will not be fully compensated because any growth less than that cannot be blamed on British Petroleum and their oil spill, not anymore.
Remember back in February when the final methodology came out and Feinberg refused to compensate workers affected by the drilling moratorium because said moratorium wasn’t directly attributable to BP? Well, using this same logic, if the general impression across the country is that the seafood in the Gulf of Mexico isn’t safe and nobody wants to buy it, that isn’t BP’s fault either.
The fact that the moratorium happened, and the impression that Gulf seafood is our country’s newest carcinogen is surely not related to any oil spill.
Not at all…
I read report after report from shrimpers talking about the small catch, about the size of the shrimp themselves and how their catch was oftentimes rotting on the dock because people didn’t want to buy it. Some shrimpers were even calling for the season to be cancelled altogether.
Did their revenues increase by 5% from 2010?
Maybe, maybe not.
What about the seafood processors?
What about claimants making interim subsistence claims?
And, what happens in the future, if this oil spill has worked its way into the food supply, if the fish lesions don’t go away, if the oil found in crab larvae doesn’t disappear, if a hurricane stirs this whole mess up all over again?
In any case, the rules on interim claims just got a lot tighter, and much more complicated.
However, if this all concerns you, perhaps you might rest easier knowing that when it comes to this growth rate, Feinberg has estimated that 75% of the businesses and individuals in the Gulf will experience a 5.6% growth rate. Also, he estimates by way of previous disasters that the Gulf will recover 70% the first year and 30% the next. Oh, and when it comes to those unemployed by this spill, he now states that unemployment benefits as a result of the spill will end after 78 weeks, and his analysis shows this will cover 95% of the people without jobs.
For any of you slipping through these cracks? Well, Feinberg and BP have made you whole enough.
But back to the interim claims:
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has alleged that Feinberg, rather than paying interim claims, is attempting to coerce Gulf Coast claimants into accepting final claims which require they sign away their rights to sue British Petroleum for future damages. A month ago, British Petroleum made demands that Feinberg stop paying all future claims because the Gulf Coast has recovered.
As a result of these new modifications to the rules, it would appear that while Feinberg insisted Jim Hood was wrong, he thought his employers, British Petroleum, might just be right.
And anyone slipping through the percentages?
Read the rule changes:
Have a nice day.
So, Feinberg went to Capitol Hill yesterday and did the congressional version of his town hall tour where he promised to post the methodology of how the GCCF will determine interim and final payments to the GCCF website on Tuesday of next week, and then also promised to begin making interim payments on Feb 18th. For all the claimants disappointed by denials or low payment amounts, he maintained that people who want to appeal their denial can do so by one of two ways. If their claim is worth more than $250,000 dollars, they can appeal it to the GCCF, but if their claim is less, they have to appeal to the Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center.
He also said:
1. He is doing the best he can.
2. He acknowledged shortcomings in the process and is trying to improve the GCCF’s transparency.
3. He’s neutral and independent; didn’t you get the chance to read the letter written by his friend that says so, the one his friend was paid to write by British Petroleum, and defended as accurate by British Petroleum’s lawyers?
And that’s not all…under questioning by the likes of Sen. David Vitter and Sen Mary Landrieu, he mentioned the reason he has never come through on his previous promises of posting the calculation methodologies is because he feels the need, “to get this right.” His job is complex and hey, did you know that he has referred over 7000 fraudulent claims to the justice department? Those are the kind of things that are just gumming up the works. Sen Vitter expressed his concern about the quick payments, and how it would appear that the GCCF is spending the majority of their time handling those easy cases while the people more directly impacted by the spill have been forced to wait for much needed money.
Feinberg agreed with this assessment.
Feinberg was gracious throughout the testimony.
Feinberg spun his testimony like nobody’s business, and why not?
What Feinberg knew, and what any self-aware Senator at this hearing yesterday knew was simply that Feinberg is not accountable to Congress, and he would appear to feel he is not accountable to residents of the Gulf Coast, either. A lot of questions were not asked yesterday, and also far removed from much of this equation was a great deal of context.
For those who haven’t been following the story, allow me to explain:
1. The methodology he plans to post on the GCCF website on Tuesday does nothing to help the 80,000 people who have accepted quick payments. They’ve already signed away all their rights. It could also be argued that this late in the game, whereas it will be interesting to know how the GCCF will be coming up with their numbers for interim and final payments, this information should have been posted much, much earlier so the residents damaged by BP’s catastraphuk could have been making informed decisions all along. It’s kind of like having to take finals for a college course, two weeks before the semester even begins. Now, this information will be beneficial to some, but over 400,000 people have been involved in this claims process with 66% of them denied from the get-go, so it would have been far better to have everyone informed from the beginning.
2. In explaining the appeals process, he gave the impression to Congress that people have recourse to their dissatisfaction with the claims process, but this is only true if that recourse actually helps anyone. Whereas the numbers about people who have appealed to the GCCF are hard to come by, as are most details to what the GCCF is doing (hence the complaints about lack of transparency) when people have appealed to the Coast Guard board, the numbers are in. There have been 507 appeals made and so far, 200 have been heard. All have been denied.
3. In bringing up the fact that he has sent 7000 claims to the Justice Department to be prosecuted for fraud, apparently using this as some indirect justification for the slowness of the process, well that doesn’t hold up at all and when you look at the averages in fraud cases after disasters, this also makes the people of the Gulf Coast look exceptionally honest. In any post disaster reparations period, the average amount of fraudulent claims tends to be ten percent, so when Feinberg receives 480,000 claims and he only finds 7,000 of them to be potentially fraudulent, that isn’t even two percent.
4. When it comes to subsistence claims, Feinberg has very little to say, but the numbers speak for themselves. The GCCF has received 16,000 subsistence claims, or claims by people who have been living off their catch more directly through trade within their community, eating their catch…etc. Of the 16,000 claims, the GCCF has paid only fifteen.
5. When it comes to the quick payment, much can be said. Feinberg’s stated plan for the quick payment was to clear the rolls of people who would have a hard time proving further loss by giving individuals $5000 dollars and business $25,000 dollars to essentially sign away all their rights and go away. Sen. Vitter expressed his concern that this is what is gumming up the works and keeping the people hardest hit by the oil spill from getting their claims paid. Okay, true and Feinberg almost acknowledged it in saying “I agree, commercial fishermen, shrimpers, have waited too long for the final payments and interim payments.” But what appears to left out of this is that while Vitter and Feinberg were congratulating the process and trying to deflect criticism that people are not taking the quick pay out of desperation, generally, the estimate of the people who shouldn’t and have taken quick payments is 3,000 claims. Three thousand people, many of them with families who have taken the quick money because they quite possibly were feeling desperate, because they saw no other choice, three thousand people who quite possibly felt the need to take this claim because of the slowness in the entire GCCF claims process. No matter how you look at it, that is simply three thousand people too many. Period.
6. Finally, it would appear that nobody wanted to talk too much about the fact that all these people accepting quick payment claims and those who will accept final payment are signing away their rights to sue British Petroleum and a hundred other companies. Again, forcing people to make a present day decision based on unknown futures, when their culture, their professions, and due to the ongoing sickness in the Gulf, their very lives may be at stake is simply wrong. It only benefits British Petroleum for them to do so, and British Petroleum is the primary cause of this entire mess…so why do they get the free pass, while everybody else has to take the risk of being screwed in the future?
When will somebody in the GCCF, or Congress, or the White House finally answer that question?
And on another note, when Sen. Charles Schumer recommended for some inexplicable reason that Feinberg should be put in charge of the new 9/11 first responders compensation fund, Sen. Vitter tried to get Feinberg to pre-emptively turn it down, lest it take away his focus from the Gulf of Mexico, Feinberg said he wouldn’t rule it out.
It’s good to be the king. God help ya, New York.
Have a nice day.
Two interesting articles about the operations from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility in the Times Picayune yesterday, discussing some of the problems many of the fishermen have been having in their attempts to receive compensations from the fund, and some of Feinberg’s responses to these problems.
On the plight of Elmer Rogers, a shrimper who has been waiting for compensation since August: “If someone’s been waiting since Aug. 24, there’s something missing here,” said Feinberg, who declined to share any details on a specific individual’s claim. “All I can say is there’s a very, very good reason for it.”
Whatever that reason is, it hasn’t been explained to Rogers. He has been repeatedly promised answers from Feinberg’s assistant, Amy Weiss, and when he called the GCCF with a reporter present last week, he was told that he had a “legit claim” with adequate documentation, but was given no further explanation. On Monday, staff at the Lafitte claims office were shocked to find out Rogers hadn’t been paid. They told him that their computers showed he should have been paid $46,000 on Sept. 13, the same day he met Feinberg.
He can’t afford his bills and his lights and water were cut off on Monday, he said.
Jason Nunez, a Shell Beach oysterman and fishing charter boat captain whose claim sat in limbo for more than two months, had his attorney, Kevin Goldberg, check on his claim constantly. He made sure Nunez had sufficient documentation of his income: three years of tax forms, proof of losses, fishing licenses.
Claims workers assured Goldberg that all was in order. Then, last week, Nunez’s claim was mysteriously denied. The reason given for the denial was as cryptic as those offered to explain all the delays. A GCCF supervisor told Goldberg that Nunez had documented his fishing from April to June, but not from June to October. The reason for that should have been obvious, Goldberg said. “I said, ‘He can’t show earnings from June to October because he didn’t have any (during the spill). That’s the point.’”
Nunez’s only recourse is to start all over again with an interim claim or final claim.
“Despite multiple promises to do so, GCCF still refuses to release the formula used to calculate payments,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, who represents most of southeast Louisiana’s coastal fishing communities. “People along the Gulf Coast who have been affected by the BP disaster deserve transparency with the claims process, especially considering that we continue to receive complaints about claims that were underpaid or denied with no reason given.”
From a column by Jason Berry about subsistence claims…
Feinberg has said repeatedly that he is eager to give away the money and that he isn’t going to make applicants leap through all sorts of hoops if he is reasonably certain that they’re honest about their losses. However, the Vietnamese fishers making a Subsistence Use of Natural Resources claim have been frustrated by Feinberg’s demand that they provide documentation of the trading they did before the spill.
Documentation? What kind of documents are there going to be to show that so-and-so caught and consumed so many pounds of crab? And if, as some of the fishers claim, their bartering was a system that helped them “live in harmony” with one another, keeping detailed records would seem to be counterproductive. Oh, you only give me 200 lbs of crabs for my daughter’s wedding when I gave you 300 for yours?
As of last week 16,858 applicants had made a loss of subsistence claim with Feinberg’s office. One of them had been successful. Those are worse than Road Home numbers!
“A claimaint needs to show documentation on their heritage, their history, their having lived off the land,” Amy Weiss, a spokeswoman for Feinberg wrote in an e-mail message last week. “The (Gulf Coast Claims Facility) will then work with the claimants to personally tailor the claim.”
Phuong Nguyen, Thien Nguyen and Ve Nguyen thought they’d done just that. The Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation calculated local retail prices for seafood and multiplied it by the amount the three applicants testified that they’d brought into the community. Phuong Nguyen received a denial letter two weeks ago. His claim was said to lack supporting documentation
Finally, back to Elmer Rogers…
“Feinberg’s failing. Just admit it, Mr. Feinberg!” Rogers bellowed. “His motivation at first was to do the right thing, but now he sees it’s too much for him, and (the motivation) is to run and hide. Well, he’s leaving a trail of disaster, hurt and pain.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Read the articles:
Have a nice day.