Cold, Hard Holiday Season for Spill Victims: Ken Feinberg’s Fund Denies 100,000 Claims in 10 Days as Processing Deadline Looms


After heavy political pressure ushered in a brief period of quicker, fairer claims payouts, it seems the Gulf Coast Claims Facility is back to business as usual. The Press-Register reports that in the last 10 days, Ken Feinberg’s $20 billion fund has denied more than 100,000 emergency claims as the Dec. 15 deadline approaches to process all 455,000 existing claims.

The sheer volume of recent denials is enough to raise eyebrows, but the seemingly hasty rate in dismissing them is downright alarming. As of the Thanksgiving holiday, a total of 67,000 had been rejected. In the relatively short period of time since Nov. 25, more than 100,000 additional claims have been turned down.

It’s disturbing that we’re seeing this kind of rush to judgment when people’s lives hang in the balance, particularly since it seems to be driven by the arrival of the artificially set processing deadline of Dec. 15.

The Claims Facility continues to reject claims based on what it calls “insufficient documentation.” But we’ve heard countless complaints from victims saying they’ve repeatedly provided the documentation the Facility requested but still await payment or have been denied. There have been countless complaints from victims saying they can’t get any answers out of the Facility regarding status of claims or reasons for claims being denied. We’ve heard countless requests, some more emphatic than others, for increased transparency – even from lofty places like the Department of Justice. Adding insult to injury, the stress of the process has triggered what amounts to a mental-health crisis in the Gulf.

Whatever the reason – valid or not – for this enormous surge in denials, tens of thousands of Gulf residents and businesses have claimed damages from the spill but will receive nothing from BP’s $20 billion compensation fund. On its face, that should bother anybody who cares about fairness and hard-working Americans, like fishermen and shrimpers and charter boat captains and a host of others.

We should remember, particularly during the holiday season, that these claims don’t just amount to numbers but rather represent real people and real families and real businesses, some of which will never fully recover from this disaster.

The next phase of this process will take place after the Dec. 15 deadline when the Claims Facility will begin working on final claims. Stay tuned…

Read the Press-Register report here:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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