Monday, February 12, 2007

Making financial war on soldiers' widows

This is appalling. In fact, it's more than that.
Widows of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan are tied up in a confusing fight of their own with banks that have delayed payment of their mortgages or claim they're not covered by insurance at all because their husbands died in combat.

Several women say they've been told by their financial institutions the mortgage insurance they've spent years paying into does not apply because their spouses died while at war.

Really?!! Because the banks, and their insurance companies are pulling a "war clause" argument.

Maureen Gillam, whose husband Sgt. Craig Gillam was killed last October in a rocket attack near Kandahar, said she received a letter just days ago stating she could not benefit from her mortgage insurance because of a so-called act of war clause.


"The policy under which insurance was issued with Home Loans Canada states that the insurer does not pay any benefit if death is due to war," the letter reads. "Given the circumstances of the late Mr. Gillam's death . . . we regret that we are unable to pay the benefits for this claim."

However, hours after a reporter questioned Manulife about the issue, the bank suddenly reversed its position and determined it would pay the entirety of the mortgage.

"Manulife has decided that it will make an extra contractual payment of the amount of insurance that would have been payable if there had been no exclusion clause," Manulife spokesman Tom Nunn stated in an e-mail.

Nunn said the bank is not changing its overall policy, but could review special cases like Gillam's to determine if the exclusion should be waived.

Yes, they can. All of them can. And they should be doing it without question and without hesitation.

Given what the banks and financial institutions in this country put down in the way of profits, paying out the home-buyer's insurance claims for Canadian service members killed in action has no material effect on their bottom line. It is absolutely fucking insignificant.

This is reprehensible behaviour on the part of the banks and their insurance underwriters. It's sleazy, cheap and mean-spirited. This shouldn't be happening - at all. An insurance company or a bank trying to squeeze the surviving dependents of our troops killed in combat is a demonstration of the level of detachment corporate Canada has from the Afghanistan mission.

They don't care. Their job is the preservation of the bottom line. And they'll invoke a phony "war clause" even if there isn't one.

Kendra Mellish, whose husband Warrant Officer Frank Mellish died last September in a firefight in Afghanistan's Panjwaii district, said she was initially told she would likely not be able to collect on her mortgage insurance because of a war exclusion clause.

She pursued the issue with officials at the Bank of Montreal, who issued the policy near her home at New Brunswick's Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, and was told they'd look into it.

While awaiting an answer, Mellish, who has two children under the age of 15, was forced to continue paying her mortgage. Four months later, she says the bank revealed it had no such exclusion clause and would begin payments.
Four months? How many lawyers had to read that?

War clauses in insurance policies are garbage in the first place. There could be a huge debate as to what actually constitutes an act of war in this case. But, that really doesn't matter. Despite the fact that Canada is not legally at war with anybody, the banks are flying their true colours and it isn't supporting the troops.

The Canadian Forces isn't blameless in this episode. Pre-deployment screenings should include financial and insurance arrangements of everyone being sent overseas and if a "war clause" shows up in a policy it should be stroked. Period. If the insurance company refuses to do so, then they should be identified as an unreliable supplier of financial protection to the entire Canadian Forces.

This is little more than making war on the troops after they've been killed.

If you feel like complaining directly here are some people you should contact:

Tony Comper, CEO BMO here
Real Raymond CEO National Bank here
Gerald T McCaughy CEO CIBC here
W. Edmund Clark CEO TD Bank here
Richard E. Waugh CEO ScotiaBank here
Dominic D'Alessandro CEO ManuLife here

To their credit the Royal Bank of Canada, which normally has a "war clause" in their mortgage protection insurance removed the clause late last year for any CF members killed in combat in Afghanistan. Now they need to remove it completely.

If our troops are fighting for "Canadian values", the big banks need to learn the meaning of the term.

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