(NaturalNews) There is despicable, there is diabolical, and there are both. This appears to be a story about the latter.
Families of four veterans diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following their tours of duty in combat zones who committed suicide after returning home are charging Prudential Insurance and the Department of Veterans Affairs with refusing to pay life insurance benefits they are due.
Mathew Ecker, the lead plaintiff in the case, which was filed recently in U.S. district court in Newark, N.J., said that his son, Michael - who served in Iraq in 2005-06 - received "at least 11 medals, ribbons and badges for his service."
The complaint goes onto say that following his son's return, "his parents observed a dramatic change in his personality. He was in constant physical pain, suffered memory losses, and was anxious all the time. Michael never left the war behind and after medical treatment efforts failed him, on August 28, 2009, he walked to the garden, saluted his father in military fashion, placed a gun to his head and pulled the trigger."
The complaint says the elder Ecker was the sole beneficiary of his son's SGLI (Servicemembers Group Life Insurance) policy, which amounted to $400,000.
"Mathew has testified under oath that, while alive, Michael never received from Prudential any notice that he could convert his SGLI policy to a VGLI [Veterans Group Life Insurance] policy," the complaint says.
Prudential didn't let beneficiaries know to change coverage?
The families claim Prudential denied them benefits they were due because their veteran children did not switch their SGLI policies to VGLI policies within 120 days of leaving the military. They also say Prudential did not inform their veteran children about switching their coverage in a timely manner.
In the filing, attorneys for the families cited two previous instances where the VA ordered Prudential to pay late claims to the beneficiaries of deceased victims.
In one case, "Prudential paid the benefit in that case even though: 1) the veteran failed to timely convert his SGLI policy to a VGLI policy, 2) more than two years had elapsed between deactivation and death, and 3) the veteran had been able to work at a refinery for period of 15 months between deactivation and death," says the complaint.
In the other case "of information and belief, Prudential was ordered by SVA [the Secretary of Veteran Affairs] or VA [the Department of Veteran Affairs] to pay the VGLI benefit to the beneficiary of a veteran who committed suicide on the basis that Prudential had failed to notify the veteran upon deactivation from the service and/or separation from the Ready Reserve that he could convert his SGLI policy to VGLI," the complaint says.
The plaintiffs charge that Prudential "intentionally denied the benefits of the life insurance of their insured under the SGLI and VGLI programs, with no rational basis for so doing, whereas others identically situated to plaintiffs were paid benefits under the life insurance policies."
History of shortchanging vets and beneficiaries?
It's not the first time Prudential has earned the ire of the beneficiaries of deceased veterans.
In 2010 the parents of six deceased soldiers sued the insurance company in a class-action case for allegedly paying paltry interest on military life benefits while keeping higher interest earnings for itself.
The suit "accuses Prudential of profiting from the dead soldiers' policies with bookkeeping maneuvers and misrepresenting the way the beneficiaries could collect lump-sum payouts," The Associated Press reported then.
The company said it did everything within the letter and spirit of its obligation, but the families alleged that as beneficiaries they received 0.5 to 1.5 percent interest on money parked in Alliance Accounts over the previous several years.
"But the plaintiffs say the checks are equivalent to an IOU, and that the money doesn't actually sit in those accounts as of the time of the soldier's death," AP reported.
Instead, the plaintiffs said in their complaint, Prudential parks the funds in a $200-billion general account that earns five to six percent interest, moves it into the Alliance Account only when requested to do so by the beneficiary, pays out the lower rate and keeps the difference.