Insuance Industry Redoubles Efforts To Give Aid On Insurance, Financial Matters To Families Of Attack Victims

The events of September 11, 2001 have had a profound impact on all Americans, but especially those who lost loved ones in the tragedy. The lives of the surviving family members were forever changed when they learned that their loved ones had perished.

Beyond dealing with their grief, perhaps the greatest challenge surviving family members face is figuring out how they’ll cope financially. Naturally, many survivors have turned to the life insurance companies which insured their loved ones. But not all survivors know whether their loved one had coverage and others are unsure of what to do next or where to turn for assistance.

Anticipating this need, the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) worked quickly in the days following the attacks to assemble an unprecedented coalition of insurance companies and insurance professionals. Their goal was to help those who did not know where to turn - concerns such as: Was there a policy? How do I file a claim? What are my settlement options? Where do I turn for help and explanations? To answer these questions, LIFE established a toll-free number (888-346-8200), providing survivors with access to free advice from some of the nation’s leading insurance and financial advisors.

According to David F. Woods, CLU, ChFC, president of LIFE, "For the first time in my 40 years in the insurance business, the companies and all our associations rallied around the industry's reason for existence. While most-if not all-companies reached out to those clients they knew about, our effort united companies and associations to reach people who, for one reason or another, may have fallen between the cracks. What’s interesting is that a number of people just called for reassurance that the information they had been given was correct and that they knew their options. So in that sense, the effort added value to the tremendous efforts companies are already making to take care of their policyholders."

The volunteer experts who respond to the callers are all members of the LIFE, NAIFA and Society of Financial Service Professionals boards, and are among the most experienced advisors in the nation. John M. Ruckel, LUTCF, LIFE Board member and NAIFA past president, was among the first to volunteer his time and expertise to this initiative. "I’ve done this for 32 years and delivered a lot of death claims," emphasizes Ruckel, "but this was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done. The person I spoke with sounded very shaky and was obviously in distress. After our half-hour conversation, he really calmed down. He told me, ‘I feel so much better; I feel tremendous relief. I don’t know how to thank you enough.’ At that moment, I got such a sense of pride from being involved in this campaign—it simply reinforces the critical importance of what we do."

For those people who called because they didn’t know whether or not their loved one had a policy, the volunteer forwarded information about the deceased to LIFE. In turn, LIFE sent the information to more than 800 participating insurance companies with a request that they search their files to see if the person was insured with the company. For privacy reasons, LIFE removed itself from the response process at that point. If there was any insurance in force, the company responded directly to the owner or primary beneficiary.

To promote the toll-free number and the special Web site that LIFE established with help from the ACLI (life-line.org/september11help), LIFE mounted an aggressive advertising and media campaign. The effort featured full page advertisements in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The New York Times, Daily News (NY), Boston Globe, and Time and Newsweek magazines, a nationwide radio tour and a widely distributed public service announcement. Importantly, LIFE’s partners in this effort—notably NAIFA, ACLI, LIC and LIMRA— made available their many resources to publicize the availability of the service.

"This is certainly the most significant activity LIFE has undertaken in our short history," reflects Woods. "Really, it stems from the instinctive desire of the people in this industry to want to help, to do something tangible for people affected by these terrible and cowardly attacks. We’re just letting people know that we—the people of the insurance industry—are there for them when they need us."