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Don't inflict more pain on Sandy-battered LIers

Homes along Bayview Avenue West in Lindenhurst, seen

Homes along Bayview Avenue West in Lindenhurst, seen on Nov. 1, 2012, were destroyed by superstorm Sandy. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Many Long Islanders with homes damaged by superstorm Sandy have been frustrated in their attempts to be reimbursed for those damages. Some complaints have been valid, others not. Now, recently filed court papers claim some government contractors secretly have been changing engineering reports to underpay flood insurance claims. The filings also allege that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was warned of the practice nearly a year ago but waited until November to refer the matter to investigators.

The claims, if true, are reprehensible and FEMA's investigation must be quick and thorough, to restore public trust in the program.

A federal judge found in November that an engineering report on a house in Long Beach was rewritten to blame the damage on structural defects, not flooding, part of what he said might have been a widespread effort by private contractors to deny post-Sandy settlements. The federal government underwrites flood insurance but hires private engineering companies to administer policies and handle claims.

At least five homeowners from Long Island and Brooklyn say documents submitted to companies by freelance engineers were changed. The companies admit some reports were altered but call that "peer review." One freelancer labeled a report rewritten and issued in his name a "forgery." That seems a more appropriate term, given at least some of those who changed reports never visited the houses involved. No wonder the state attorney general has opened a criminal probe.

FEMA and its contractors are responsible for ensuring flood insurance claims are legitimate. Rewriting reports to deny claims is wrong, and inflicts more damage on people already battered by Sandy.