Since 1999, the VA has allowed Prudential to send survivors “checkbooks” tied to its Alliance Account. In 2009 alone, the families of U.S. soldiers and veterans were supposed to be paid death benefits totaling $1 billion immediately, according to their insurance policies. They weren’t.
Prudential’s VA policies promise either a lump sum payout or 36 monthly payments. About 90 percent of survivors, including Lohman, choose to receive the full amount upfront. When they do, they don’t get a check; they get a “checkbook.”
Cindy Lohman tried to use one of the “checks” to buy a bed, and the salesman rejected it. That happened again this year, she says, when she went to a Target store to purchase a camera on Armed Forces Day, May 15.
Wurtz, 62, said he had believed that the Alliance Account money went into a bank. After he learned that the payouts actually stayed in Prudential’s general fund, Wurtz says, he asked Prudential how much money the insurance company made from these accounts and how many dollars it held in retained assets.
“Uncle Sam is ripping off their own,” Wurtz says. “My wife would get the money, and they would blood-suck some of it out of her.”
It took Wurtz, who’s been working with insurers for most of his career, more than a decade to understand how retained-asset accounts work. Companies like MetLife and Prudential have never told millions of Americans with insurance policies that when they die, the insurer plans to hold their family’s money in its own account to make investment gains from the death benefit.