As service members, retirees and veterans return to their homes in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, USAA is responding to about 30,000 insurance claims.
The number is expected to increase as it becomes safe for more members to return to their homes and for USAA adjusters to access the affected areas, spokesman Rich Johnson said.
Many of those who are unable to get back “just want to know” the condition of their homes, Johnson said. In response to feedback from the company’s catastrophe response teams on the ground who are working with members, the company developed a tool that allows members to view aerial photos of their home.
“The images are updated frequently but may not include images from all areas affected by Harvey,” Johnson said. “We are asking the public to please check frequently for updates.”
He said USAA is still working through some technical issues with the system but hopes it will offer some peace of mind to some members. USAA has partnered with DataWing Global, which is providing drones and pilots to help with roof inspections, Johnson said.
USAA has sent about 100 additional people to the areas in Texas affected by Harvey, including field insurance adjusters and personnel who have established several catastrophe response units in the Corpus Christi and Houston areas. Teams in these units can help members start the claims process and conduct most other business they have with USAA.
USAA and Armed Forces Insurance, another company that insures a large number of those in the military community, both are warning members to select their contractors wisely as they start the repair process.
“We recommend you obtain at least two estimates. There may be increased contractor solicitation following a storm, so be sure you choose a reputable contractor,” Armed Forces Insurance said in an email to its members. “We also recommend you check the references and licenses for any contractor you consider hiring.”
USAA has a network of companies it works with that can help their members repair the damage to their vehicles and homes, Johnson said. He advises that members should be aware of fraudulent contractors, roofers and auto repair shops. According to the Federal Trade Commission, scam artists often appear after a disaster like this, taking advantage of victims.
AFI also recommends taking pictures of any damage, and keeping any damaged items until the claim has been settled.
USAA advises making minor repairs to the home or auto to prevent further damage, such as tarping a lower roof area, boarding up a window or covering a car, Johnson said. Those should be attempted only when it is safe and the member is able to make those repairs.
Armed Forces Insurance encourages its members to visit its website or call 800-255-0187 to report hurricane damage.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.