Herb Hollis of Flower Mound has been battling with USAA to cover roof damages after months of inconsistent service from the veteran-serving company.

DRC_Dave Lieber

Dave Lieber

Dear Watchdog:

I’ve been trying to get my roof replaced after a June 2018 hail storm. I’m retired military, and I have been with USAA since 1992 because it was an insurance company that offered favorable rates to its customers that were affiliated with the military. They have always been a fair and honest company until recently.

USAA sent its adjuster to my house. The adjuster told me when he arrived that hail had not hit our side of the city. They said any hail damage wasn’t enough. USAA denied my claim.

I contacted an independent appraiser. He found evidence of hail damage, but the main defect was wind damage caused during the hail storm. The whole roof has to be replaced. I contacted USAA because they had not performed a wind damage inspection. He never tested a single shingle for failure.

I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to ensure they had to answer my complaint. I also filed a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance. Now I have to move forward with an attorney. Pure runaround, hoping I will go away.

Meanwhile, two of my neighbors hit by the same storm have new roofs and did not have to go to court to get their insurance company to honor their policy.

I noticed that in the past year the BBB rating of USAA dropped from an “A” to an “F.” Go see for yourself. How does an insurance company go from an “A” to an “F” in a year?

Herbert Hollis

Flower Mound

Dear Herb:

You got The Watchdog’s attention. How does San Antonio-based USAA go from an “A” to an “F” in one year? Did the company get sent to the principal’s office for misbehavior one too many times?

USAA builds its reputation on being different — a friend to members of the military and their families.

Some of USAA’s top competitors — Geico, State Farm and Nationwide — all have BBB ratings of A+.

Why have the mighty fallen? What’s going on with this legendary 98-year-old company?

A check of the BBB website provides a few answers. The failing grade is due to two stated reasons.

The first is that the company agreed this year to a $15 million settlement with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over how USAA’s banking arm mishandled thousands of personal checking accounts. Of the $15 million, $12 million goes back to victims, with the rest counting as a penalty.

The other reason for the failing grade? The BBB explains: “49 complaints filed against business that were not resolved.”

That sounds serious. Unresolved complaints. Hmm.

Company response

Matt Hartwig, USAA spokesman, says: “We resolve and solve every complaint. We just don’t do that with the Better Business Bureau.”

Why not?

“We’ve made the decision not to share with the BBB, in part, because we’re not required to do so. They’re not a regulator of ours.”

The Watchdog quoted back my mother’s warning: “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”

BBB ratings rank high in Google searches when you look for a company’s name and accompanying search terms like complaints, reviews, ratings and government action.

As members of my Watchdog Nation know, this is a must-do activity before signing any contracts or agreements or buying anything important. Search for what others say.

That “F” rating could cost USAA new customers.

I asked Hartwig if a particular incident turned the company away from notifying the BBB of its resolutions. He didn’t say.

From a marketing viewpoint, this doesn’t seem like the smartest strategy. The Watchdog has covered companies that appointed executives whose main job is to resolve all BBB complaints in order to clean up a bad grade. Not USAA.

Hartwig said complaints “were resolved. We just didn’t share the resolution with the BBB.”

Not so fast

What about Herb Hollis’ 18-month quest to get a new roof?

“I can’t speak to individual claims,” Hartwig said. “We don’t discuss those out of respect for the privacy of the individual.”

He pointed to other customer-service surveys where USAA scores high, such as J.D. Power and Satmetrix.

“We hope this information is helpful and further validates our position that this [F rating] isn’t particularly noteworthy as the BBB process for developing its rating is not reflective of how we serve our members.”

BBB officials directed me to their USAA information page.

The Watchdog checked with the Texas Department of Insurance. Its website shows USAA had 42 complaints against it last year. That’s below average for a company its size. Good news for USAA.

Herb, a TDI spokesman confirmed that your complaint against USAA is being investigated by state regulators.

For USAA, the problem isn’t winning J.D. Power surveys or TDI numbers. Those don’t show up high in web searches. BBB ratings do.

The problem is the “F.” As we all know, F stands for failing.

Like your roof, Herb.

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