90-year-old challenges reports of success in filing financial claims after Deepwater oil spill

Deepwater Horizon claims at $4 billion

CLEARWATER, Fla. - After opening 19 claims centers across the Gulf Coast last summer, Deepwater Horizon oil spill claims have received eligibility notices that total more than $4 billion.    

Sally Strecher, 90, has tried tried to file her claim for more than a year.

"They have all this detail already and they're asking for more," she said outside the Clearwater office Monday morning. "I'm trying not to say things I'd like to say."

Stecher's visited the Clearwater office on Drew Street ever since it opened last summer. Though 90-years-old, she always carries a heavy bag full of paperwork, including notes and tax forms she calls proof of a $3,000 loss in 2011 when no one wanted to rent her Treasure Island condo.

"There's no question to ask. It's right there," she said.

Except, Stecher says, she never gets the same answer when she asks what else she needs to do to have her claim filed. She's walked up to the store-front office a dozen times, but Monday was different, because of a special visitor.

"I haven't heard anything here that's out of the ordinary," explained Patrick Juneau.

Juneau serves as the federally appointed claims administrator for the Deepwater Claims Settlement program. He visited the Clearwater claims office because he points to billions of dollars in allocated funds based on a thousand page document that computes who should get what.

"It's very transparent. It's very specific," Juneau said. "You want to ensure that people are doing this right. I'm here to convey that message to these people face to face."

Stecher has a message, too. After a year of different advice and promised phone calls, she finally got  a clear answer: condo owners cannot receive money for losses after 2010. According to Strecher, she's never wavered from her request to be reimbursed for 2011.

Incredulous as to why it took clerks a year to inform her of the rule, Stecher left the office unsure why she would not be eligible for the year after the oil spill, considering what she believes to be a direct loss due to fear over the condition of Florida's beaches.

"I said, 'My sugar is sky high right now. I think you're waiting til' I die then you won't have to worry about it anymore," she said. "Talking to those people. Taking their time. Taking my time. Waiting for somebody to call."

After just a year since the 19 claim offices opened along the Gulf coast, Juneau reports that clerks are still learning.

"Through experience and repetitious action, you get better everyday," he said.
 

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