Here is an excerpt from @SenMenendez press release;
“In what was, in my opinion, a very frank and productive conversation, Mr. Kieserman made a personal commitment to me that FEMA will take aggressive steps to make sure victims of Superstorm Sandy get every penny to which they’re entitled. Importantly, that means creating a process to not just review cases in litigation, but all cases in New Jersey where there were questionable practices. He also committed to fundamentally reform the claims process so these egregious bad practices are never again repeated. “
Here is the full Press Release;
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 4, 2015
Menendez Gets FEMA Commitment to Review Additional Sandy Flood Insurance Claims, Reform NFIP
WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senator Bob Menendez tonight spoke directly with Brad Kieserman, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) point person for resolving Sandy victims’ claims of being lowballed by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
“In what was, in my opinion, a very frank and productive conversation, Mr. Kieserman made a personal commitment to me that FEMA will take aggressive steps to make sure victims of Superstorm Sandy get every penny to which they’re entitled. Importantly, that means creating a process to not just review cases in litigation, but all cases in New Jersey where there were questionable practices. He also committed to fundamentally reform the claims process so these egregious bad practices are never again repeated.
“Mr. Kieserman also assured me that he would take steps to ban any engineering firm or insurance company that acted in bad faith or committed outright fraud from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). I’m encouraged by these positive steps, but will adhere to the principle of ‘trust, but verify’ as I continue to oversee the reforms which will also be guided by the Task Force I have established.
“It’s been well over two years since Sandy struck, but sadly the pain and suffering lingers for families struggling to rebuild their lives. The fight for justice and fairness for Sandy victims is far from over. I will hold FEMA’s feet to the fire until every single Sandy survivor gets what they are entitled to and critical reforms are enacted to ensure this never happens again to disaster victims.”
During the call, Deputy Associate Administrator Kieserman made the following commitments to Senator Menendez:
- Create a process that allows people who did not file lawsuits, but were lowballed due to fraud or bad practices, to have their claim objectively reviewed, so filing a lawsuit is not a prerequisite for justice
- Collect and make available to every policyholder all iterations of engineering reports
- Prohibit any resolution that includes criminal indemnity for any engineering firms or WYOs found to commit fraud
- Work to sanction and expel from the NFIP any engineering firm or WYO that was found to commit fraud
- Work with the Menendez Task Force on short and long term reforms including, the practice of peer-reviewed engineering reports, oversight of the WYOs, claims appeals process and balancing the penalty structure for over and underpayments
These commitments overlap and build upon the reforms, Sens. Menendez and Cory Booker called for in a letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate last week, specifically that:
- Any resolution should be as inclusive as possible to all victims, regardless of what state they live in, because New Jersey victims suffered no less, nor were they spared any of the issues facing New York homeowners
- Any resolution should not be limited just to those cases currently in litigation, because litigation should not be a prerequisite for fairness nor should arbitrary deadlines or statute of limitations be used to prejudice victims’ legitimate claims, especially considering the highly questionable process
- Any resolution should not place any limitation or interfere with current or prospective criminal or governmental investigations into allegations of fraud and other related crimes, nor should bad actors be given any type of criminal immunity
- Any resolution obligate FEMA to build on the steps it has taken to increase transparency by requiring Write Your Own (WYO) insurance companies to release all documents, drafts, and emails in all cases where there are multiple iterations of engineering, adjusters’ reports or estimates of damage
During a July 30, 2014 Senate Banking Subcommittee hearing, Sen. Menendez, questioned Administrator Fugate about FEMA’s unbalanced penalty structure that punishes WYOs for making overpayments far more than it punishes them for making underpayments. As a result of these hearings, as well as several follow-up letters and meetings, FEMA agreed in December to significant reforms, including: conducting its own internal investigation; constituting a task force led by Sen. Menendez to realign the unbalanced penalty structure; reopening 270 policyholder appeals; and providing policyholders in litigation with all engineering report permutations.