Insurer Denies Claim for Dead Iraq Vet

The Charelston Gazette

August 18, 2008 – The parents of an Iraq war veteran who died in his sleep in February while recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder have sued his insurance company after it refused to pay his life insurance.

In a lawsuit filed in Kanawha Circuit Court in July, Stan and Shirley White of Cross Lanes maintain that Houston-based American General Life Insurance Co. wrongly denied them the proceeds from their youngest son’s life insurance policy.

Andrew White joined the Marine Corps Reserve in July 2003, and served as a combat engineer, disarming “improvised explosive devices” and patrolling areas near Iraq’s border with Syria.

Shortly after he returned home in September 2005, his older brother, Bob, who was serving in the Army in Afghanistan, was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the Humvee in which he was riding.

In the wake of his brother’s death, Andrew White took out a $50,000 policy with AIG, the lawsuit states.

“To preclude placing a financial burden on his family, who had already suffered through one tragedy, Andrew purchased a life insurance policy from AIG. Andrew chose to list his parents as sole beneficiaries, as he was unmarried, and did not have children,” the lawsuit states.

After filling out an application, he was examined by a health professional of AIG’s choosing on Oct. 31, 2006, the lawsuit maintains.

AIG issued his policy the following month.

Because he was a smoker, White agreed to pay a higher premium, according to the lawsuit. For 14 1/2 months, he made his monthly payments.

n August 2007, White was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and began treatment at the Veterans Affairs clinic in Kanawha City.

Although he was taking prescription medicines at the time of his death, a toxicology screen performed as a part of an autopsy indicated normal levels of his medication, the lawsuit maintains. The autopsy found no disease, organ damage or health problems, the lawsuit states.

The state Medical Examiner’s Office determined that White’s death was accidental, according to the lawsuit.

However, when his parents submitted his death certificate to AIG, the insurer denied their claim.

“[AIG] said that had they known that Andrew White had a car accident when he was 16 years old, they never would have written the policy to begin with,” said Charleston attorney Jack Tinney, who represents the White family. “That’s ludicrous.

“They have gone back and searched for any reason whatsoever to deny the claim, rather than look for a valid reason,” Tinney said.

Carrie Goodwin Fenwick, who represents AIG, could not be reached Friday.

Last week, the insurance company had the case moved to federal court.

The lawsuit seeks $50,000, which represents the full proceeds of the policy, plus unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

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