Scam results in policy change
By Spc. Nikki St. Amant/The Bayonet
FORT BENNING, Ga. (TRADOC News Service, May 27, 2005) – An insurance scam saga which has lasted more than a year and affected more than 1,000 Fort Benning Soldiers resulted in a landmark announcement by Georgia State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine in a press conference May 25.
Oxendine announced a partnership between the Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s Office and the Department of Defense in the effort to rework DoD regulations and policies to protect Soldiers from predatory business practices.
It’s the second step in a campaign against the hooding of America’s armed forces. A few weeks ago, a new bill was passed by the joint legislature making violation of DoD policies regarding the aforementioned business practices a violation of state law.
The new law will make it possible for state authorities to prosecute and revoke the licenses of businesses practicing on traditionally federal turf.
Oxendine also announced two of the insurance companies involved in the ongoing investigation have agreed to refund millions of dollars to frauded Soldiers at Forts Benning and Gordon, Ga. American Amicable Life Insurance will refund more than $400,000 to Fort Benning Soldiers, and Madison National Life will pay $250,000 to Benning Soldiers on top of the $875,000 it will return to Fort Gordon Soldiers.
Traditionally, settlements in cases such as this aren’t negotiated until the investigations are complete. However, Soldiers hard-pressed for the hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars they lost in the scandal won’t have to wait years for their money.
Army lawyer Capt. Julie Heumphreus was the original investigator when the scandal was discovered in 2004. It revealed at least three life-insurance companies used unethical practices targeting mostly basic trainees on Benning’s Sand Hill, with the sale of questionable life-insurance policies at inflated rates under the guise that the purchases were high-return investments.
“These Soldiers are young, they are volunteering, they are putting their lives on the line, and they don’t need this,” Heumphreus said. “When you can help Soldiers so they are taken care of and can do their job – that was our goal, and I think we have accomplished it in this case. There is always room for improvement, but we are moving in the right direction now.”
The investigation was launched after reports that two insurance agents were selling policies of questionable value to new recruits after misrepresenting themselves as financial advisers.
Soldiers under the impression the advisers were officially associated with the Army were misled into purchasing the policies which promised to make them “millionaires upon retirement.”
has uncovered huge numbers of Soldiers who were victimized at Benning and at
several other Army installations.
Oxendine promised the initial refunds are only the beginning for the companies in question.
“This is not over,” he said. “They are not going to get off the hook by paying out these refunds. We are continuing to look at other actions against the companies.”