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May 19, 2014

Frustration grows over $3.4B settlement delay

(Continued)

HELENA, Mont. —

Identifying the people in that second class — which also contains members of the first class — has proven to be a challenge due in part to the Interior Department’s incomplete record-keeping, Smith said. For example, the Interior Department had no records for thousands of people in Oklahoma who had made claims, leading to an extension of the appeals period while they tried to prove their claims by going to the state courts for documentation.

Plus, there were no known addresses for 65,000 people identified as beneficiaries, which Garden City Group has been able to whittle down to about 14,000, Smith said.

The search for those still on the list continues, though it won’t hold up the payments, he said.

That’s little consolation to the beneficiaries who are waiting. Not only are their payments delayed, but their checks are diluted when more class members are added.

In Juarez’s case, she was told last summer she would receive $1,260. As of February, that had been reduced to $1,197 with the addition of more beneficiaries.

“If they’re entitled to that money, that’s great — awesome — but the timing is taking way too long,” Juarez said. “A deadline is a deadline. They are holding up so many people.”

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