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Department of Veterans Affairs struck a secret deal in 1999 to allow Prudential to turn the death benefits of U.S. service members into a $662 million

 
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09/14/2010 11:22 AM
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Department of Veterans Affairs struck a secret deal in 1999 to allow Prudential to turn the death benefits of U.S. service members into a $662 million
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs failed to inform 6 million soldiers and their families of an agreement enabling Prudential Financial Inc. to withhold lump-sum payments of life insurance benefits for survivors of fallen service members, according to records made public through a Freedom of Information request.

The amendment to Prudential’s contract is the first document to show how VA officials sanctioned a payment practice that has spurred investigations by lawmakers and regulators. Since 1999, Prudential has used so-called retained-asset accounts, which allow the company to withhold lump sum payments due to survivors and earn investment income on the money for itself.

The Sept. 1, 2009, amendment to Prudential’s contract with the VA ratified another unpublicized deal that had been struck between the insurer and the government 10 years earlier -- one that was never put into writing, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its November issue. This verbal agreement in 1999 provoked concern among top insurance officials of the agency, the documents released in the FOIA request show.

For a decade, until the contract was formally changed, Prudential wasn’t fulfilling its obligations to survivors of fallen service members, says Brendan Bridgeland, an insurance lawyer who runs the non-profit Center for Insurance Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

‘Violated Terms’

“It’s very clear they violated the original terms of the contract,” says Bridgeland, who is retained by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to represent consumers.

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[link to www.bloomberg.com]
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09/14/2010 11:34 AM
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Re: Department of Veterans Affairs struck a secret deal in 1999 to allow Prudential to turn the death benefits of U.S. service members into a $662 million
There are some insurance companies that practice the idea of "retained assets" in the private sector as well. A letter is sent to the beneficiaries informing them that an account has been set up for them from which they can withdraw proceeds.

Sweet deal for the insurance companies that earn interest of over 4% while they give the beneficiaries a little over 1% interest. However, the beneficiary can request the full amount of the death benefit.
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