I Could Use The Money
VIEWPOINT: Oil claims reimbursements get bogged down in bureaucracy
By JODI MOORE
I work for a beach wedding company and I have suffered losses of a few thousand dollars this summer. Even though it wasn’t a large sum of money, I suffered losses because of the oil spill and, like everyone, I could definitely use the money I lost. I’m not wealthy and I have two children at home, one in college and one in high school.
I filed a claim with supporting documents online on Sept. 25. I thought since my claim was such a small one I would surely be paid my reimbursement quickly. My employer filed a claim online and has been paid for personal losses. Another employee of the company I work for filed a claim online and was reimbursed within three weeks. My younger sister owns a beach wedding company also and filed a claim online four days after I did, and was paid for her personal losses within a week. We all sent the same supporting documents, which were tax records for the past two years. I also sent a letter from my employer verifying my losses.
Now, more than a month later, I still have not been paid what I lost this year. When I did not receive any payment after a couple of weeks (and my sister was paid so promptly) I called the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and asked why my younger sister had been paid so quickly why I was still waiting. When I checked my status online, the GCCF website just read that my claim was “submitted,” and nothing else — not under review, nothing.
I was told over the phone that my sister was “lucky” and that the claims facility was “working as hard as they could, 24 hours a day” to process claims. I asked if I needed to send any further documentation and was told everything looked fine and nothing on my claim was flagged. I was told this over and over as time went by, my status never changed, and I kept calling.
I asked to speak with a supervisor at one point, and she was absolutely no help whatsoever. I didn’t call every day, but I called every few days as time went on and on, and I also sent e-mails. I was reassured that nothing further was needed and that my check was just taking time to get to me. I was told that “we get this question [why some people are paid faster than others] 50 times a day.”
The staff at GCCF was polite but condescending, and clearly no one had any answers as to why my claim wasn’t going anywhere. Eventually, when I made phone calls or sent e-mails, they were not returned. I finally turned to Alex Sink’s office and got in contact with a man who works there to help me.
I finally heard from the claims facility — and they’re saying that while my claim was received, my supporting documents never were. I know they were sent, and I double-checked that they were sent. If they were never received, why wasn’t I told when I called and e-mailed and I kept asking, “Do you need any more documentation?” I was told by the worker in Alex Sink’s office who has been helping me try to get my reimbursement there is a big problem with documents being lost or misplaced, so mine is not an isolated case.
I am over 40 years old and I have never seen such incompetence in all my life as it exists at the GCCF. Whenever I deal with anyone from there, I feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall — and I’d probably make more progress if I did.
I am lucky, actually — I want the money that I lost through no fault of my own, but I’m not losing my house because of this and, in general, all of my bills are paid (there are a few bills I have been waiting to pay until I finally get reimbursed.) God help those who are waiting and waiting while the banks foreclose on them, and the water and electric get shut off, while Feinberg and the people who work for the GCCF twiddle their thumbs and lose important documents and give innocent people the run-around.
I have resubmitted my supporting documents and plan to resubmit them every day until I get confirmation that they were received (but obviously that’s no guarantee with these people that they’ll actually get them or do anything about it.) Anyone else out there who is not getting answers and has had no activity on his or her claim needs to resubmit all paperwork to make sure they are received.