The Gulf Coast Claims Facility was created with the stated purpose of handling claims brought by the people so harmed when British Petroleum spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was supposed to be done fairly, and with haste and this was promised by its neutral arbitrator, Ken Feinberg.
Neither appears to have happened.
The claims process is not perceived as fair. Oil industry workers have been left out in the cold. The GCCF has denied claims British Petroleum had previously paid. Some claimants receive quick money and speedy service while others are given denials and a return of their paperwork marked as deficient for the smallest mistake on a form, which in turn starts their waiting periods all over again. And let us not forget the repeated denials of subsistence claims.
The claims process is not being done quickly. GCCF online forms have errors, resulting in returned documents with residents of the Gulf Coast being told different things at different times by employees of the GCCF, all bogging down the process. There have been arbitrary rule changes, and no transparency which leaves residents often in the dark about why their claims have been denied, and due to their financial need for resolution, then assail the GCCF with questions which remain, unanswered.
Feinberg has gone on for months about poor documentation in the claims, and how it has slowed down his system, seemingly placing the blame back squarely on Gulf Coast residents, on the injured parties…and what does this do?
It creates discord amongst claimants, and it deflects anger from the parties in this mess who truly deserve it: the GCCF, British Petroleum and the President, who appears content to do little about it.
Consider these two attempts at receiving the quick payment:
“I have a coworker whose husband filed a quick business claim. Received it within 14 days.”
“I downloaded and submitted my quick pay form on the 17th, mailed it overnight immediately. The cost was 20.00. They received the form on the 20th and I then waited… called everyday to make sure everything was okay and was told for 12 days straight that the forms I had submitted looked good and I should expect payment within 14 days. On or around the 10th day into my wait, watching the online GCCF statistics I quickly began to feel “leery” about the forms. If the GCCF was indeed paying so many claims according to their website, something was definitely not right. So, I downloaded another form around the 29th and just mailed it into the GCCF regular mail (since surely this was my paranoia getting to me) after all, I had written emails from the GCCF and phone calls reassuring me that I would receive payment in a day or two. WRONG!!! I found out at Propublica.com via a common thread based on happenings with various claimants, the GCCF had sent out a mass letter to claimants which stated the downloaded forms had “changed” in the download process
I immediately called the GCCF and the blame for the faulty form was placed on me… then I was told over and over to wait for the new packet because that was the only accepted form. After all, they did not tell people to use the online method, but told them to use the mailed packet… so… it was my fault, I had indeed read all of the information provided on the GCCF wrong. I did download another form at that time, filled it out completely and mailed it overnight to the GCCF… another 30.00 (FEDEX) I waited, I emailed, I called and yes, they did indeed receive that package on the 30th, it was date-stamped and scanned… I was getting paid within 14 days. Then on the 3rd of January I finally received in the mail the packet they had mailed to claimants with the forms (completely blank) to fill out.. so… me and my paranoia filled that complete form out and mailed it FEDEX another 30.00
I called, I emailed, then lo and behold they receive the forms that I had sent via regular mail and I am now being told that I will be paid from the date-stamp January 3rd! What happened to the Dec. 30th date-stamped form?
So, I waited, I emailed, I called and suddenly my date-stamp is January 4th so I am waiting 14 days from January 4th now and who in the hell am I to ask what happened to my “corrected forms” I mailed in, and they date stamped on Dec. 30 and on January 3rd…yet… the numbers on the website show that the statistics are off the charts and people are being paid in two-three days! Again, this was never an issue with the quick pay personal claims, but it was the same exact form… all downloaded from the GCCF.”
Some people get paid, quick and easy, the way they were promised.
Some people are still waiting to be paid after going to great lengths, sending in duplicate forms, covering their bases so to speak, and feeling the need to do so oftentimes as a result of the lack of transparency, the unanswered questions, the false information relayed to them by GCCF employees and the GCCF website.
And some get denied outright.
As a result, some people caught up in or rejected by the claims process are beginning to turn on each other. Resentments grow against the people who at least got something from the people who have been denied everything. People who were paid quickly brush off the complaints of those who haven’t, telling them to just sit quiet and be patient. The frustration of the people jumping through hoops and still waiting boils over onto everyone.
All while Barack Obama remains quiet.
All while British Petroleum stock prices continue to rise.
All while Ken Feinberg continues to massage the press, go to the opera and use British Petroleum money to pay a colleague to write a letter in his favor, declaring that he is neutral in this claims process.
Dividing an angry public against each other while politicians, big business and those otherwise in charge go about their day is one of the most tried and true political tactics used in our society, having been implemented time and time again. Why? Because it works…so has this been the intent of Ken Feinberg and the GCCF all along?
Difficult to say, but I might ask who has been acting like the politician?
Well, Ken Feinberg was named one of the 100 most influential people in finance by Treasury and Risk, and one doesn’t rise to such heights without a healthy dose of political savvy and connection. And if you should be one of the people who attends his meetings this week in the Gulf Coast, the question and answer sessions being held on Monday and Tuesday, one might ask, does it feel like a politician’s town hall meeting? And if so, does it feel like you’re being emotionally managed at this meeting, as a group, or will your complaints actually change the course of action by the GCCF?
Division amongst Gulf Coast residents only serves the interests of British Petroleum and the GCCF. It serves as a distraction and an energy drain from the protestations that should continue to be directed towards the guilty parties. What is needed now is unity amongst claimants, approved and denied, and whereas nobody can say for sure whether this growing climate of resentment has been fostered intentionally, it would be difficult to argue that British Petroleum, the originator of this whole mess, isn’t reaping the benefit.
Keep the pressure on all the guilty parties, together.
Have a nice day.