WASHINGTON — Long Island homeowners came here Thursday to protest delays and problems with unresolved superstorm Sandy federal flood insurance claims under a year-old FEMA review that a lawmaker said should be probed by Congress.
The National Flood Insurance Program began the review of nearly 20,000 Sandy-related claims last May. Homeowners had accused adjusters and engineers of forging documents to deny settlements, prompting an internal investigation and the departure of two top officials.
Michelle Insinga, of Lindenhurst, said the review is beset with many of the same problems that plagued the initial process. “What’s new is what’s old, again,” she said.
At a Capitol Hill news conference attended by Insinga and homeowners Long Island and New Jersey, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) called for a congressional oversight hearing into flaws and possible fraud in the review process.
MacArthur introduced Jeffrey Coolidge, a former FEMA manager in flood insurance claims who said he quit his job because he found the process to be “a sham” and “designed to underpay people.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general is investigating the claims process.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who met in his Washington office with homeowners from Long Island, said if the inspector general doesn’t conclude its investigation soon, he would back a House hearing on the flood insurance claims review process.
“We keep having to go back and make it better. On several occasions we had to require them to open up the process,” Schumer said in a telephone interview.
FEMA spokesman Rafael Lemaitre defended the review. He said FEMA does not encourage adjusters to keep claims payouts to any specific dollar amount and that FEMA refers all allegations of fraud to the inspector general.
Lemaitre added that the review process “was set up in conjunction with members of Congress from both parties, and in consultation with advocacy groups.”
He said most of the flood insurance claims filed by 144,000 people after Sandy have been settled. Of the 19,144 claims being reviewed, 11,138 have been completed, he said.