Insurance issues for U.S. military service members & their families

On this Veteran’s Day 2009, we recognize and salute all U.S. veterans. We appreciate your service to our great country – thank you! For those who would like to show appreciation in a concrete way – why not hire a vet? And we also call your attention to a worthwhile cause that helps to address some of the seriously wounded veterans of recent conflicts: The Wounded Warrior Project provides services and programs to ease the burdens of the most seriously wounded and their families, to aid in the recovery process, and to smooth their transition back to civilian life.
Insurance issues related to the military
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has put together a great resource on insurance issues as they specifically relate to U.S. military service members and their families, noting that insurance coverage can often be affected when someone moves out of state or spends an extended period of time away from home. NAIC suggests that military members talk to their agents before deploying to make arrangements for insurance renewal and payment to ensure that they do not lose important coverage. The site covers life insurance issues specifically as they relate to military service members, including buying tips and red flags for deceptive practices. The site also addresses other types of insurance coverages, including homeowners, rental, auto and health insurance. There are many considerations and issues to discuss with your agent: if your home will be vacant, check to see if your insurer has a vacancy clause that would limit your coverage; find out how your homeowners insurance will cover any possessions you have with you while deployed; and check to see if your auto policy will allow you to suspend some or all of your coverage.
NAIC also suggests that deploying service members may want to consider assigning power of attorney to a spouse, family member, or trusted friend who could act on your behalf in insurance, financial, personal, or legal matters. The site offers a list of links to helpful resources for other sources of benefits and assistance.
Avoiding insurance & investment scams and ID theft targeting military families
Service members and their families are good targets for fraud: they are away from home for extended periods while mobilized in service; families are often transient; paychecks are regular and predictable; and returning service members often have extra cash from combat pay. In TRAPPED! Financial Scams Are Targeting Military Families, Kimberly Lankford of Military Money discusses common scams and offers tips and resources to help you avoid becoming a victim.
To minimize the risk of identity theft while deployed, military members may want to place an “active duty alert” in credit reports. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the alert would require creditors to verify your identity before granting credit in your name. Active duty alerts on your report are effective for one year, unless you request that the alert be removed sooner.
The FTC also encourages service members to file complaints through the Consumer Sentinel Military Network, a secure online database of complaints from the military community. While the FTC doesn’t resolve individual disputes, complaints help the effort to target cases for prosecution, shut down scammers, spot patterns of fraud before they become widespread, and alert the military community to scams.
Workplace issues
Employers need to be aware of their legal obligations to employees on military leave as well as legal obligations to veterans under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). In addition to legal obligations, it’s important for employers to take steps to help service members make the transition back to the workplace. Also, the Insurance Information Institute offers advice on What employers and their insurers need to know about returning veterans. There are many issues that may relate to overall benefits, workers compensation, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).