WASHINGTON – More than 140,000 people who submitted flood insurance claims after damage from superstorm Sandy will get a chance to have their cases reviewed, opening the door to increased payments for those short-changed by questionable insurance practices, New Jersey Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker said Wednesday.
The two Democrats also said that the man who oversaw the federal flood insurance program, David Miller, has resigned after numerous reports that insurers altered at least some engineering reports in order to give out lower payments. The senators made the announcement after a meeting with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate.
Menendez called it "a very good meeting." Booker said, "FEMA gets it now."
Of the roughly 144,000 people who filed flood insurance claims after Sandy, around 2,000 are already in litigation over their payments. The rest will get letters from FEMA alerting them that they can now appeal as well, even if their appeals window has passed. Menendez called that step "a good faith effort" by FEMA.
The effort follows spreading concerns that many homeowners may have been underpaid due to questionable engineering reports – in some cases altered from the original version – that the flood victims never saw.
Top priority for review will be given to the 15,000 homeowners whose claims were affected by engineering reports and who have not already entered litigation, the senators said.
But even those whose flood claims did not involve engineering studies will also be able to appeal, because the senators worry that there may have been other methods also used to lower pay outs.
The appeals process still has to be established by FEMA, but Menendez said the senators received assurances that it would be a straight-forward one, without the need for homeowners to hire lawyers.
Menendez said he will also lead a task force, along with senators from New Jersey and New York, to review the flood insurance program and ensure changes for the future.