NEWARK, N.J. — Military families can pursue a lawsuit over death benefits for disabled veterans whose insurance coverage lapsed, a federal judge in New Jersey ruled Wednesday.
The families charge that Prudential Insurance Co. failed to warn the former soldiers that their policies would expire after they left active duty. The benefits ranged from $250,000 to $400,000.
The suit now includes the families of William Hamilton and Carey Seymour, who committed suicide after leaving active duty. Both men suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. This should have qualified them for two years of continued coverage, the suit said.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty denied Prudential’s motion to dismiss the case, finding the families may be able to prove their allegations of fraud or unequal treatment. At least two other families received awards after they went public and the Veterans Administration intervened, their lawyer said.
Lawyer Aaron J. Freiwald can now gather evidence and seek class-action status.
“We don’t know what the full scope of this is,” Freiwald said.
Newark-based Prudential, which administers the insurance program for the Veterans Administration, denies the allegations. In court filings, the company said that Hamilton died nearly five years after his policy expired, and said it sent three expiration notices to Seymour. A spokesman declined further comment Wednesday.
Hamilton served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Unit at Fort Bragg in North Carolina until his 2005 discharge. He was then hospitalized nine times for PTSD before he stepped into the path of a train in 2010, the lawsuit said. His survivors include his mother, Delores Hamilton of Modesto, California.
Seymour earned several war medals for his 2005-06 service in Iraq. He committed suicide in April 2007, the suit said. His survivors include parents in Kissimmee, Florida, and a daughter in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.