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Thursday, Aug. 19, 2004 10:25 pm

Fleecing America’s soldiers

art1309

It's been said that you don't know what hell is until you've had an insurance salesman in your living room, prattling on eternally about term-life annuities.

But I've recently learned about a deeper level of hell reserved for insurance-company hucksters who -- get this -- are ripping off America's young soldiers. Companies such as American Amicable Life Insurance have weaseled their way to our basic-training bases, where they pose as semiofficial military agents, then gather boot-camp grunts into so-called classes where the unscrupulous agents proceed to pick the pockets of underpaid soldiers.

The fleecing is presented by the insurance companies and the military as a compulsory "briefing" on personal finances. With superior officers in the room, the agents talk of "investments" and walk the unsuspecting troops through pages of paperwork, getting them to sign blind authorizations to deduct money from their meager monthly paychecks.

The briefings don't mention that the 19- and 20-year-old soldiers are not really buying investments but life insurance. Nor is it pointed out that they will pay far more in costly premiums than they'll ever draw out. Also, the insurance is unnecessary, because nearly every soldier is covered by a low-cost military policy that pays 10 times what these private scams do.

It's bad enough that our young men and women are thrust into a war of lies in Iraq, but it's a moral abomination that insurance gougers are allowed to prey on them at home. Yet not only does the Pentagon turn a blind eye to this sleazy scam, but so does Congress, which has blocked any effort to stop this thievery.

These companies and their lobbyists, Congress, and military officials are participating in crass war profiteering -- and they deserve a special place in hell.

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