Ken Feinberg, in an article from yesterday’s Times-Picayune, reports the pace of payments by the GCCF have improved, sped up and are finally hitting their stride. In the article by David Hammer, it is reported the average amount of final payments have increased, as has the percentage of final payments paid, also, the GCCF has processed 95% of the 300,000 claims that were filed before the month of May.
All true…and if these were the only measuring sticks we had, we should all be so impressed.
Unfortunately, there’s more to this story:
Yes, the average of the final payments are up from $16,000 to $20,000 dollars and whereas yes, this is an improvement, is it enough to compensate for all damages past, present and future, making the people whole? I don’t know, how much did you make last year? How much did the people in the Gulf make last year? Was it more than $20,000 dollars, and considering we know some larger companies have received payments as high as ten million dollars, what do these large sums do to the average payment of the average fisherman, average tour guide, average restaurant worker…average anybody, that’s a question I’d like an answer too. How much are the specific payments? Unfortunately, these questions will remain unanswered, because Ken’s promises of greater transparency have never materialized…
Yes, the percentage of final payments continue to rise. He has paid 26% of the final payments that have been filed, course it is fourteen months after the oil began to spill, and many have yet to get back to work while very few are earning what they did before the Deepwater Horizon exploded. It would seem that congratulating Feinberg for the percentage of claims paid rising is akin to congratulating someone for doing what they were hired to do, what they’ve been paid handsomely to do, and in this particular case, ignoring the exceedingly long time it took to get there…and, how much further Ken still has to go…
Yes, the GCCF has processed 95% of the 300,000 claims made. Impressive, except that 40% of those were denials and due to a lack of transparency, we don’t know why and according to many of those denied, they don’t always quite understand why either. Also, a large percentage of those 300,000 claims were of the quick claims variety which stipulated no questions asked, individuals get $5,000 and businesses get $25,000 dollars or in other words, the simplest of claims to process. This means the majority of those claims still waiting to be processed are the most complex and time consuming. Do we congratulate the high school graduate for demonstrating a mastery of addition and subtraction?
So, Feinberg still has three quarters of the claims to pay, continues to pay what would seem a small amount to claimants and has processed the easiest claims first…but he’s hitting his stride…all while financial desperation remains, with thousand upon thousands of claims waiting.
And there’s more…as the article continues:
“Catholic Charities case managers say they haven’t seen too many of the 1,300 fishers who have reportedly taken full-review final settlements from Feinberg. They have, on the other hand, seen thousands who have been denied interim payments on a quarterly basis. Federal law requires Feinberg to pay for ongoing losses without forcing claimants to sign away their rights to sue. But he’s made only 16,000 such payments.
Tom Costanza of Catholic Charities said most of the interim payment offers are minuscule and are attached to final payment offers. Even if those final offers aren’t close to what the claimant requested, the prospect of another quarter without aid is often too much to bear. He said that 70 percent of the claimants who have turned to state-financed technical assistance advisers for help are still waiting for resolution. “I just can’t see how this is moving in the right direction,” Costanza said. The stalemate is most pronounced with subsistence claims, a crucial issue in the Gulf Coast’s fishing-centric Vietnamese communities.”
As has been the case since the GCCF’s methodology was put into place…the quick payments were done ASAP while the final payments were slowly worked on, but seemingly neglected for the most part in all this are the interim payments. The interim payments are the only claim one can file which does not require the claimant to waive their right to sue British Petroleum. As Tom Costanza says above, when miserly interim checks arrive to the claimant, also accompanied by a final offer…can we finally put to rest the idea that Ken and the GCCF aren’t trying to coerce as many as possible into signing away their legal rights? Because yes, it would certainly seem the message being sent to those filing interim claims is as follows: not only will you wait the longest, your checks will be quite small, but take a look at what you could have if you accept the final payment…all you gotta do is sign by the “X”.
Meanwhile, it remains quite obvious that many, many people continue to be upset with the GCCF process…hell, as recently as this past week, people continue to post comments on this blog expressing their dissatisfaction…but of course, Ken has his supporters as well, Mike Voisin, owner of a Motivatit Seafood is mostly pleased with Feinberg and the GCCF, “I think Ken’s gonna make it right,” Voisin said. “We have a responsible party that I believe is acting responsibly in this case. Will people fall through the cracks? Certainly. You have this many claims, it will overwhelm even Ken Feinberg…”
Okay, but what of those people who fall through the cracks? Of the the well over 100,000 people denied outright by the GCCF, how many of those claims might have been legitimate? How many of those were indeed claims that simply fell through the cracks?
Want to know how many should be allowed to so fall?
Yes, this is a very exacting amount, something that will be very difficult to do, but so what? Nobody on the Gulf Coast or beyond asked for the oil spill, therefore nobody should be left behind. Nobody. It isn’t like the escrow money is running out. By Ken’s own estimates, he’s still sitting on almost $16 billion dollars of the $20 billion allotted. Nobody should be left behind, because when someone falls through the cracks, this is what it looks like:
“The chief engineer aboard a supply boat that was near the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded, and whose company quickly began working for BP in the cleanup, claims he was pushed into accepting a settlement for debilitating oil spill-related illness before the extent of his injuries was known.
Clayton Matherne says he accepted a $21,000 settlement from Guilbeau Marine without realizing that in doing so he was giving up his rights to get anything from BP. He says his medical bills have come to $700,000 and he still is dangerously ill, “The president of the United States and the federal government of the United States promised to protect us, but since the oil spill in 2010, they’ve chosen to turn a blind eye,” Clayton Matherne told Courthouse News in a telephone interview.
At an oil spill summit at the Hilton in New Orleans on anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Kenneth Feinberg, who oversees BP’s $20 billion claims process at the Gulf Coast Claims Facility abruptly ended a public meeting shortly after Matherne asked him how it was that the Gulf Coast Claims Facility had managed to lose all of Matherne’s medical records seven times. “The GCCF says they don’t have enough documentation to pay a $100,000 claim, when in fact this amount is only half – I’ve faxed my medical records seven times,” Matherne told Feinberg at the meeting. “Where are medical claims going?”
“We will honor all claims,” Feinberg said, then asked: “Was there evidence the medical condition was on account of oil?” Feinberg told Louisiana lawmakers this month that the GCCF had not seen a single claim for oil-related illnesses on the Gulf Coast. “Did Feinberg follow up? No!” Matherne said in the interview. Neither did Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu.”
Nobody should be left behind…
Feinberg should stay at it for as long as it takes…
And so the Gulf Coast can be sure anyone entitled a payment receives a payment, Feinberg should finally open his books, once and for all…without greater transparency, the Gulf Coast will never really know what is happening here.
Taking Ken’s word for it, as I’ve written before, is as much a thing of the past as Bobby Jindal’s sand berms.
Feinberg is the man who said he was neutral until Judge Barbier said he wasn’t. Feinberg is the man who said there were no health claims, and then quotes popped up where he discussed the health claims he’d received, and denied. This is also the man who told many claimants at town hall meetings he would follow-up with them personally, then never did. Finally, he’s the man who said he was coming to the rescue of the Gulf Coast, only to make too many, far too many, feel they needed rescue from his Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
So ultimately, yes…Ken Feinberg can “say” whatever he wants…that he is hitting his stride, but what he is actually “doing” still leaves much to be desired.
Have a nice day.