In March 2015, almost two and a half years after Superstorm Sandy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that anyone who filed a flood insurance claim after the storm and who was not satisfied with the proceeds they received could ask for that claim to be re-opened and reviewed. FEMA, which manages the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), made the announcement shortly following the discovery of widespread fraud in engineering reports upon which insurance companies relied. In addition, the NFIP claims process was structured in a way that incentivized underpayments.
Beginning in May, FEMA sent letters to all 142,000 Sandy victims - about 73,000 in New Jersey - who had filed a post-Sandy insurance claim, explaining the review process. While the process is intended to be one that homeowners can complete without legal representation, many Sandy victims were still left with questions.
VLJ quickly began working with other organizations and offices (Legal Services of New Jersey, the Ocean County Long-Term Recovery Group, and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez's office) to schedule a series of seminars designed to provide an overview of and answer questions about the claims review process. VLJ co-hosted six different seminars in Atlantic, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, and Ocean counties, presenting information to over 300 attendees. Staff from VLJ's Disaster Legal Response Program also attended nine collaborative clinics to provide individualized advice to homeowners with specific legal questions.