House Passes Donovan FEMA Reform Legislation
Washington, DC—April 28, 2016....The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed legislation Congressman Dan Donovan (NY-11) introduced to address altered post-Sandy damage inspection reports. It’s another step in Donovan’s intensive focus on assisting those now going through the “storm after the storm,” and to improve the federal disaster recovery process to avoid the mistakes made after Superstorm Sandy.
Donovan said, “Two of the biggest reasons I went to Washington were to secure health treatment for heroes who worked at Ground Zero after 9/11, and to help those affected by Superstorm Sandy going through the ‘storm after the storm.’ I accomplished the first, and I’m so proud to take this step toward accomplishing the second.”
Damage reports were the focus of post-Sandy investigations after 60 Minutes revealed some reports were fraudulently altered to minimize damage claims. During the claims adjustment process, an engineering report may pass through multiple reviewers before final approval or rejection. The policyholder has no visibility into this process or into any of the changes that might be made to the original report. Donovan’s bill requires engineers and adjustors to provide copies of their reports to the policyholder before providing copies to anybody else. This would eliminate the opportunity to fraudulently alter an engineering report without the policyholder’s knowledge.
The bill also addresses the process through which flood insurance policyholders may appeal their claim decision. Right now, those who wish to contest a claim denial may appeal to FEMA or file a lawsuit within one year of the original denial. Once a lawsuit is filed, though, the FEMA appeal ends without decision. This flawed procedure forces policyholders to file lawsuits if FEMA does not resolve the appeal within a year, costing taxpayers money and placing added burdens on flood victims. Donovan’s bill extends the deadline for filing suit to allow claimants time to first pursue their FEMA appeal in full.
Donovan originally proposed these ideas in the Flood Insurance Mitigation and Policyholder Protection Act (FIMPPA), which he introduced in September 2015. The language from FIMPPA was added to a larger bill, the PREPARE Act, which passed the House this week.