Soldier lawsuit: Iraq War ended before deployment

PORTLAND, Ore. — An insurance company that denied benefits to a military veteran faces a federal lawsuit that argues its reasoning was groundless because the U.S. wasn’t at war with Iraq in 2008.

Jerico McCoy, 29, said Iraq was a sovereign nation when he deployed there in 2008. He was denied benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder by his former employer’s insurer, which cited an exception to its health coverage if an injury was caused by an “act of war.”

McCoy sued Aetna Inc. for using the exclusion to deny his benefits claim, which would have paid him his full salary of $1,056 a week during an unpaid medical leave granted by his employer, Bank of America, according to the lawsuit.

McCoy was sent twice to Iraq, once in 2003 and again in 2008. On his second deployment, he joined a psychological operations team traveling through western and southern Iraq.

In the time between the deployments, McCoy took a job with Bank of America in Virginia in 2005, then switched to a bank branch in Oregon. After his second Iraq tour, he suffered from post-traumatic stress that eventually forced him to resign in April 2011, the lawsuit said.

Aetna, which administers Bank of America’s benefits program, cited a clause in his benefits coverage that says disability benefits are not paid “for a disability resulting from acts of war, participation in a riot, insurrection, rebellion or civil commotion.”

McCoy’s lawsuit argued that the Iraq war ended by the time he was deployed in October 2008, when Iraq was a sovereign country allied with the United States. Injuries suffered by soldiers who were on bases in allied nations such as those in Korea and Germany would not be considered results from an act of war, he argued.

In emails with Aetna, an administrator raised questions about the depth of McCoy’s disability and said at one point that he failed to produce enough medical evidence to support his claim, according to The Oregonian (http://bit.ly/yrvbvH ). A message left by The Associated Press for Aetna’s communications team was not immediately returned Saturday.

McCoy claimed that after he returned to the U.S. in 2009, he was unable to concentrate and complete schoolwork at the University of Phoenix because of his condition. He dropped out in August 2010. He returned to work in January 2011, but said his symptoms forced him to resign later.

McCoy filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland. No hearing dates have been set.

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