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Soldier in Afghanistan says travel insurance company would not cover for missed cruise

12:31 AM, Jun 5, 2012   |    comments
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New Port Richey, Florida - Why would a cruise insurance company deny a claim from Staff Sergeant Jeremy Radtke after his flight home from a war zone in Afghanistan was canceled?

The line of people who wanted to know include the Sergeant, his wife, her mom the travel agent, a state senator and of course the 10 News Investigators.

His mother-in-law and travel agent Louise McCall, who told the couple to buy the insurance "just in case," said that she broke down and cried when she was told their claim was denied.

"It's not like 'I had a bad hair day and I don't feel like going.' He's in a war zone, for God's sake," said McCall from her Maryland home by phone. "He was under a rocket attack last week that hit really close."

Jamie Radtke, Jeremy's wife, had those rocket attacks in mind when she booked the cruise and said she couldn't wait for her husband to come home on R&R. 

"In March he was granted leave. He comes home for 15 days. My mom's a travel agent [and] we plan a trip on Princess Cruises for 10 days. We're super excited."

As with a lot of military families, excitement soon turned to disappointment. Sgt. Radke's flight out of Afghanistan was canceled and his orders were changed.

"We knew it was a possibility, that it might not happen, he might get delayed. So we bought travel insurance on our cruise," said Jamie.

Sgt. Radtke was finally able to make it back to the states, the couple booked a last-minute cruise and had a great time. Radtke went back to Afghanistan and Jamie put in a claim with the insurance company for the cost of the first cruise. She was shocked to learn the company denied her claim.

"Of course at that point, I was so upset I told my mom, 'Please call. I'm going to either cry or yell.' So she talked to him and he said the same thing," said Radtke.

McCall remembers she was very disappointed. "Here's a poor guy who is in Afghanistan fighting for his country, wanting to go on a vacation. He hasn't seen his wife for six months and everything is beyond his control, beyond her and beyond our control. And for the insurance company to say, 'Nope, we're not going to cover it.'"

That's when the family contacted State Senator Mike Fasano. Fasano wrote a letter to Dean Sivley, President and CEO of Travel Guard. "My first sentence was 'I'm angry.' I'm angry with you and I'm angry with your company for how you treated this military family."

Fasano's letter went on to say in part: 

It is important for you to know that Mr. Radtke is active-duty military and is stationed in Afghanistan. This soldier, whose life is on the line each and every day to protect the freedoms that you and I enjoy, planned the cruise during a scheduled two week leave period. This leave is the only time he was able to come home and spend time with his wife.

I find it unconscionable that your company would deny a claim by anyone with a legitimate claim, especially active duty service members who frequently have to deal with changes in leave time.  The reason Mr. &  Mrs. Radtke chose your company over insurance offered by Princess was the fact that you specifically advertise as serving active duty military.

When the 10 News Investigators contacted Travel Guard, they sent us an email asking where we had obtained information that the claim had been denied, because they said it wasn't true. It turns out that Travel Guard wasn't telling the truth and we have the voice mail on Jamie's phone that proves it:

"Hi this message is for Jeremy. Jeremy, this is Shane and I'm calling in regards to travel insurance claim that was filed and we were finally able to do a review of that claim. Unfortunately we were not able to extend benefits on the claim."

Travel Guard still insisted in e-mails to us it never denied the claim. The email said in part:

"...this claim was never formally denied and the claimant never received written notification stating such. This claim was still open, then finalized and approved after receiving the documents we had requested from the military (via insured) prior to you contacting me on 5/22 as outlined in the dates listed below. I apologize, but I am not clear on what you are investigating for a story."

After Senator Fasano and the 10 News Investigators contacted the company, it issued a check for $3,600 to cover the cost of the cruise.

Sometimes it takes outside help to get insurance companies to toe the line, even in the case of a soldier who is putting his life on the line to protect our freedoms.

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