Osages all over the United States were confused and some outraged that they didn’t get their Cobell settlement checks before Christmas.
But according to David Smith, class counsel for Cobell, checks were disseminated based on the records held by the U.S. Department of the Interior for each tribe. And in the Osages case, the DOI’s records for Osage tribal members showed their IIM accounts to be “restricted status.” Osages have always had their payments for the royalties on the Osage Mineral Estate deposited into their IIM accounts, so the decision by the DOI was to deposit Osages Cobell settlements to their IIM accounts.
“With respect to most of the Oklahoma beneficiaries, those [settlement checks] were transferred to the OST [Office of the Special Trustee] on Dec. 21,” Smith said. As to why the deposits weren’t immediately made to the accounts, he said he didn’t know.
According to Smith, more than 200,000 checks have been mailed, with the first group mailed Dec. 14 and the second on Dec. 17. With those persons who qualified for their settlement checks to be direct deposited, they had to wait on instructions from the DOI.
Osages were posting on the Osage News Facebook page that their settlements were deposited the evening of Dec. 26. More Osages were posting that they were waiting on hold for the OST office for more than 30 minutes in some cases, only to find their deposits weren’t there yet.
“Right now the call center for Garden City Group is receiving 50,000 to 60,000 calls a day,” Smith said. “So they are receiving an extremely high volume.”
Based on the DOI’s records, almost 40,000 Historical Accounting Class members are shown as “whereabouts unknown,” and another 10,000 have no contact information, according to indiantrust.com. If members of the Historical Accounting Class are not currently receiving statements on their IIM accounts from the United States government, then you need to provide contact information to the Claims Administrator, Garden City Group, by calling (800) 961-6109.
Trust Administration Class
Payment for the Trust Administration Class won’t be disbursed until the Summer of 2013, Smith said. Beneficiaries in the trust administration class is anyone who had an IIM account recorded in currently available electronic data in federal government systems (Electronic Ledger Era) anytime from approximately 1985 to Sept. 30, 2009, or can demonstrate ownership interest in trust land or land in restricted status as of Sept. 30, 2009, according to indiantrust.com.
The judge in the original settlement agreement made a provision for supplemental notice to beneficiaries and consistent with the settlement, supplemental notice will be made to the trust administration class, Smith said. Those members of the trust administration class have until March 1 to make a claim. All claims must be postmarked March 1.
A Special Master has been assigned to grant those claims and beneficiaries will have to wait for that process to take place as well.
The settlement is non-taxable and will not affect eligibility for government benefits, according to indiantrust.com. The Claims Resolution Act of 2010, H.R. 4783, specifically prohibits settlement awards from being treated as gross income or a resource. Any settlement recipient who gets taxed for settlement money needs to contact the Internal Revenue Service to get a refund. This also includes the Osage Trust Case settlement of 2011.
Notices and updates are posted regularly to indiantrust.com website where beneficiaries questions might also be answered. To check the status of your IIM account, call the OST office at (888) 678-6836.