Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand Tuesday urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure that any deal to settle disputed flood insurance claims includes provisions for superstorm Sandy victims who suspect they were defrauded but never filed a lawsuit.
In a letter to FEMA's top negotiator, the New York politicians said the agency needs to compensate all flood victims cheated out of settlements after the 2012 storm. "Just because somebody didn't file a lawsuit doesn't mean they should be excluded," Schumer said in an interview.
FEMA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.EditorialEditorial: Sandy victims suffered twiceStoryAG: LI engineering firm raided by investigators
The letter, to FEMA deputy associate administrator Brad Kieserman, comes after Schumer, Gillibrand and others on Monday called for oversight hearings into how the agency responded to allegations that engineering firms forged documents to deny claims from the National Flood Insurance Program.
Those allegations, which arose from the roughly 1,800 lawsuits pending in New York and New Jersey over disputed flood claims, have led to a criminal investigation by the New York State attorney general.
The two firms suspected of forgeries -- U.S. Forensic of Metairie, Louisiana, and GEB HiRise of Uniondale -- have denied wrongdoing.
As the criminal probe unfolds, FEMA is in talks with lawyers for homeowners to settle the civil cases. Attorneys for homeowners, however, say the alleged fraud extends beyond those who filed lawsuits.
In their talks with FEMA, lawyers have pushed to establish a way for storm victims who didn't sue to collect payments they were wrongly denied. Ideally, that system would not require homeowners to hire lawyers, the attorneys said.
Schumer and Gillibrand told FEMA that additional settlements should be considered for any storm victim whose flood insurance claim relied on an engineering report from U.S. Forensic, HiRise or any other firm found to have forged reports.
The senators said homeowners should be allowed to request copies of all reports, including drafts, used to calculate their flood claims. "I would strongly urge anyone who had a settlement they weren't happy with to ask for their files," Schumer said.