Many claimants seeking compensation for damages from the Gulf oil spill say they are struggling to get basic information about what is happening with their claims.
Dozens of claimants have told ProPublica they are having trouble getting information about their submissions, and applicants say that the claims agents they speak to on the telephone and in field offices are unable to provide any answers. It is possible to check the status  of applications on the website of the operation run by claims czar Kenneth Feinberg, but claimants say they cannot get explanations for their status, for delays in processing, or for the size of the checks sent out for approved claims.
Feinberg acknowledged to ProPublica that his operation should be doing a better job of providing enough information to claimants. He said he has been making changes to improve transparency and responsiveness.
Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration made public all information available throughout the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday in response to a preliminary report that criticized how it handled the disaster.
"This was an unprecedented environmental disaster met with an unprecedented federal response which prevented any of the worst-case scenarios from coming to fruition," Gibbs told reporters when asked about the report made public the previous day. "When we had information, we gave it to the public."
According to the working paper released Wednesday from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, the administration vastly underestimated the tens of thousands of barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf after the April 20 oil rig explosion that caused the disaster, despite contrary information from scientists using better methodologies.
(ProPublica) - Five weeks after taking over the oil spill damage claims from BP, and after widespread criticism of delays in processing applications, claims czar Kenneth Feinberg said his operation had eliminated the backlog of older claims that had been sitting in the system unpaid.
“There is virtually now no backlog,” Feinberg told us this morning. “We are now current with any of the older claims.”
The latest statistics from his operation indicate that nearly 39,000 claims have been paid or approved, another roughly 27,000 have been flagged for inadequate documentation, and almost 8,700 are under review. “The only backlog we have now in the system," Feinberg said, "is claims that have come in over the last few days,” as well as the large number of insufficiently documented claims that he said his organization is unable to process.
However, some applicants in our BP Claims Project said that their claims are still waiting in limbo even though they filed with Feinberg’s operation more than a month ago.
Kenneth Feinberg, the independent paymaster who took over managing Gulf spill damage claims from BP just over three weeks ago, has faced growing frustration from many claimants who have yet to see a check.
Although his Gulf Coast Claims Facility has approved payments of more than $150 million to date, participants in our BP Claims Project have reported delays, technical glitches and a lack of transparency in the review process for their claims.
We spoke with Feinberg on Tuesday about some of the most widespread problems we’ve been hearing about from claimants, as well as some of our own questions about how his operation works. Feinberg said he was considering creating an ombudsman to increase transparency for claimants, and his spokeswoman Amy Weiss later provided us with more comprehensive claims data (PDF) that showed that nearly a quarter of applications have been found to have insufficient documentation to be processed.
We’ve divided our conversation with Feinberg into the main subjects that we covered.
AC360° & ProPublica
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Have you worked processing gulf oil spill damage claims? Share your experiences with Anderson Cooper and ProPublica, nonprofit newsroom.
From ProPublica: To fully understand the gulf oil spill claims processing system, we want to get a view from the inside. We want to hear from the people who are handling the claims – the reviewers, adjusters and other claims management workers who have been employed by BP and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
If you are working (or previously worked) for BP, the GCCF, Worley, ESIS, BrownGreer, the Garden City Group or any of the other subcontractors or temp agencies that have helped with the claims process, we want to hear about your experience. We’re interested in speaking to you whatever your role in the process has been: answering telephones, reviewing claims, supervising adjusters, etc.
Please share details of your experience with ProPublica and AC360° using this form.
Earlier: Tell us about your BP claim
CNN Wire Staff
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(CNN) - Faulty cementing, a misread pressure test and an improperly maintained blowout preventer all contributed to the April 20 explosion that uncorked the worst oil spill in U.S. history, BP's investigation of the disaster concluded Wednesday.
BP said its team aboard the doomed oil rig Deepwater Horizon "incorrectly accepted" results of a negative pressure test aboard the rig before the blast, but the company's internal report assigns much of the blame to rig owner Transocean and cementing contractor Halliburton. The three companies have repeatedly pointed fingers at each other since the explosion, which killed 11 workers and resulted in an estimated 4.9 million barrels (205 million gallons) of oil spilling into the Gulf.
Just over a week ago, when Kenneth Feinberg took over the process for handling damage claims from the Gulf oil spill, he promised to cut through the delays and confusion that applicants faced under the much-maligned BP system.
But signs are emerging that Feinberg’s goals – particularly his pledge to respond to personal claims for emergency payments within 48 hours – may be overly ambitious. Applicants participating in our BP Claims Project say that they have not received responses within two days of filing claims and that they have encountered an array of service problems, from a system crash to difficulty in transferring critical paperwork.
Amy Weiss, Feinberg’s spokeswoman, acknowledged on Sunday that the facility was experiencing delays. “In the first few weeks...we may be short of our 48-hour goal,” Weiss said in an e-mail.
Weiss said many of the claims could not be processed because they lacked sufficient documentation, and that the new Gulf Coast Claims Facility has approved about $6 million in payments to just under 1,200 individuals. Statistics from the GCCF indicate that only about 6 percent of total claims – for both individuals and businesses – had been paid as of Monday.
Program Note: Five years after Hurricane Katrina, see how three extraordinary CNN Heroes are determined to bring New Orleans back. Watch their inspiring story, hosted by Anderson Cooper: "CNN Heroes: Coming Back from Katrina," at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday on CNN.
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When Tad Agoglia started to clean up the mess caused by Hurricane Katrina, he couldn't help thinking he was weeks behind schedule.
It was two months after the storm, and his crane operating company had just been hired to help in Louisiana.
"I wondered what it would have been like if I had been there on day one," Agoglia said.
Frustrated by the kind of bureaucratic red tape that delayed aid after Katrina, Agoglia started the First Response Team of America, a mobile, "24-hour-a-day firehouse" that provides free emergency aid within hours of a catastrophe. Since 2007, the nonprofit group has responded to many of the country's worst natural disasters, including floods in Rhode Island and Tennessee and tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi.
CNN Wire Staff
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U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu will hold a late-morning hearing Thursday about the lessons learned and the progress made in the five years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and large sections of the Gulf coast.
The hearing in Chalmette, Louisiana, will highlight the continuing challenges facing the state.
On Wednesday, Landrieu announced that Washington will award $1.8 billion to schools in New Orleans.
A provision in an appropriations bill authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide a lump-sum payment for K-12 schools damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.