While we are all preparing for the possibility of Hurricane or (hopefully) Tropical Storm Joaquin hitting the tri-state area, many east coast residents are still recovering from Superstorm Sandy. To assist people who missed the previous September 15th deadline, FEMA has now extended the deadline to re-open your Sandy claim to October 15th. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that any additional flood insurance proceeds up to $20,000 will not be treated as duplicative. This is a major win for policyholders who received relief funding from government agencies. HUD stated that “three out of four National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) claimants have received less than $20,000 in additional compensation from FEMA and will not face any possible repayment.”
So how is the Sandy Claims review process experience going? In a word, slow. While I did not anticipate a fast review process given the potential number of cases being reopened, I did not expect to see the disorganization and lack of communication I’ve seen thus far. For example, I re-opened a claim for a client on June 24th. During FEMA’s initial phone call outlining the process, they stated that a review would be completed ninety days from the date the case was re-opened. Yesterday, six days past the ninety-day deadline, I received a phone call from a FEMA representative stating my client’s case was being transferred to him for review. This is now the third FEMA representative the case has been transferred to. In addition, the representative had no idea why it was transferred or where the documents were that I had sent the original claims handler. In all the cases I have reopened, I have been given the phone number of the claims handler once. Usually, once the claim is opened, you have to wait until the claims handler contacts you via email, which could take up to thirty days. Thereafter, it’s up to you to stay on top of your claim and send documents. I have never been asked if I would like to submit additional documents from a claims handler even though the FEMA directive stated that all policyholders have fourteen days to submit additional documents once a claim is reopened.
Regardless, while this unprecedented process is flawed, it offers hope of reclamation to some Sandy victims. With the added bonus of HUD forgiving up to $20,000 in additional flood insurance proceeds, you have nothing to lose by reopening your claim.
To reopen your claim you can call the NFIP’s Hurricane Sandy claims center at 866-337-4262. You can also go online at www.fema.gov/hurricane-sandy-nfip-claims to download a form requesting a review. The downloaded form can be filled out and emailed to FEMAemail@example.com or faxed to 202-646-7970.
I leave you with a quote from the late, great legend Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra to remind you to reopen your Sandy claim because, “it ain’t over till it’s over.”