US House bill would help Holocaust survivors recover billions in insurance
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US House bill would help Holocaust survivors recover billions in insurance

97% of the approximately 800,000 policies held in 1938 have yet to be honored due to insurers’ impossible demand that death certificates, original paperwork be produced

Holocaust survivors Leon Kaner, age 94, and his wife Ray Kaner, age 92, pass a vintage German train car, like those used to transport people to Auschwitz and other death camps, outside the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in New York, March 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Holocaust survivors Leon Kaner, age 94, and his wife Ray Kaner, age 92, pass a vintage German train car, like those used to transport people to Auschwitz and other death camps, outside the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in New York, March 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Legislation with bipartisan support that would restore the rights of Holocaust-era insurance beneficiaries to recover billions in unclaimed payments left behind after World War II has been introduced in the US House of Representatives.

Due to federal court rulings and a failure by insurance companies to adequately publish the names of recipients and pay these claims, 97 percent of the approximately 800,000 policies held in 1938 have yet to be honored. The insurers’ unreasonable demands that death certificates and original policy paperwork be produced is all but impossible for survivors who, at the time, had just survived death camps, forced relocations, torture and death marches.

The Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act of 2019 was introduced Friday by Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Republican Representative Lee Zeldin of New York. A Senate companion bill was recently introduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaks during a news conference after touring in the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, on Saturday, June 23, 2018, in Homestead, Florida. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The legislation would validate state laws requiring insurers to publish policy holder information; establish a federal cause of action in US courts to ensure Holocaust survivors and heirs have access to US courts; and provide a 10-year period of time for cases to be brought after the date of enactment.

“Preventing Holocaust survivors and their families from collecting on documented policies is truly outrageous and cruel, but allowing these global insurance corporations to hold on to this unjust enrichment is an offensive re-victimization that cannot be allowed to stand,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

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