The Sandy Task Force created to examine problems within the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that arose in the wake of Super storm Sandy and to develop recommendations for short- and long-term fixes officially launched Tuesday in Washington, D.C..

(Win McNamee, Getty Images)
(Win McNamee, Getty Images)

U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) and Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-N.Y.) kicked off the task force which will focus on a range of relevant issues, including FEMA's agreement to reopen all underpaid flood insurance claims for Sandy victims caused by widespread low-balling and manipulation of engineering and adjustment reports.

Members of the task force include the four Senators from New Jersey and New York, their staff, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, FEMA officials, outside experts, Sandy victims and other stakeholders.

Menendez doesn't think Fugate's inclusion on the task force presents a conflict of interest.

"I think some of the people who Stop FEMA Now have raised questions about actually have been let go who were part of the National Flood Insurance Program," said Menendez in reference to concerns expressed by the grass roots group that formed after the hurricane.

Menendez also noted that Brad Kierserman, FEMA's Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance, who admitted mistakes with claims on CBS's 60 Minutes, also is on the task force and is someone "people have a sense of confidence in."

"So I don't think having Craig Fugate there is a problem, on the contrary, it's the very top of the agency and this way we can hold FEMA's feet to the fire," Menendez said.

For policy holders with claims not in court or those who feel they received low pay-outs, Menendez said he would like for the task force to get the review process up and running, make it non-burdensome, and to ensure evidence required by FEMA is flexible and reasonable.

"After two and a half years since the storm hit, it's unreasonable to expect policy holders to have every single documentation or receipt that they may have had at one time," said Menendez.

Other short-term goals he wants accomplished include having the timeline to be as quickly as possible, and reviews to be conducted within a short and reasonable time frame.

"I want FEMA to have an independent third party, who is neutral, to consider appeals of any determination that somebody believes still leaves them short," Menendez said.

Long-term, Menendez wants to see the nature of the NFIP changed, as it relates to the claims process having oversight of all NFIP contractors to eliminate any unscrupulous engineering firms and insurance companies.

He also wants to examine a specific exemption in NFIP policies defined as Earth Movement, which prevented a number of people being denied coverage.

"They said it wasn't really Sandy that created the damage, it was Earth Movement. Well, the Earth never moved until Sandy came, and so, having that be a much clearer definition in exemption is a critical element," added Menendez.



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