Life insurance options for veterans
When you were on active duty, you were automatically enrolled for $400,000 of life insurance through Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI). Now that you’re a veteran, you have options to get similar coverage. One of the most popular is Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) Opens in new window.
Offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs and administered by Prudential since the program began in 1974, VGLI is “term” life insurance. This means you’re covered for a set period of time, or term; if you die during that time, your beneficiaries receive the payout. Specifically, VGLI coverage is renewable every five years and will remain in effect as long as you continue to pay the premiums on time.
Who’s eligible for VGLI?
Coverage is available up to $400,000; however, it cannot exceed the amount of SGLI coverage you had at separation or release from duty. You can apply for VGLI coverage if:
- You had SGLI while you were in the military and you’re within one year and 120 days of being released from active duty;
- You are within one year and 120 days of being released from the Ready Reserves or National Guard; or?
- Upon separation, you were assigned to the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR) of a branch of service, or to the Inactive National Guard (ING). This also includes members of the U.S. Public Health Service Inactive Reserve Corps (IRC). You have one year and 120 days from the date of such assignment.
The pros and cons of VGLI
VGLI offers a range of advantages over private life insurance:
Continuous coverage. Once you have it, you can keep your VGLI policy for as long as premiums are paid on time.
No exclusions. VGLI doesn’t exclude veterans for reasons related to mental health, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
No medical questions. If you enroll in VGLI within 240 days of your date of separation, you’ll be approved regardless of your physical or mental health.
Standard premium rates. VGLI rates are based on your age and coverage amount only; they’re the same regardless of your gender or smoker status.
Still, there are a few things you may want to consider about your coverage options when making a decision. Like all term coverage, VGLI is more affordable when you’re young but becomes more expensive as you get older. Also, the maximum death benefit for VGLI is $400,000. That may not be enough protection to meet your needs.
Is private insurance a better choice?
Like anyone else, veterans can buy life insurance from a private carrier (like Prudential). Depending on your situation, this option may offer a few advantages.
For example, you can choose coverage amounts above the $400,000 VGLI maximum. Also, you may be interested in a “permanent” policy that builds cash value. That could help pay for a child’s education or serve as a source of extra income in retirement.
Private insurers typically want you to undergo a medical exam before they approve your coverage. Depending on your gender, health condition, occupation and smoker status, you could be rejected or have to pay higher premiums.
Options for veterans with disabilities
If you’re a veteran with a disability, you may be eligible for these programs:
- Service members who are totally disabled upon separation from service can retain their SGLI coverage at no cost for up to two years from separation.
- Up to $10,000 in coverage at reduced or no cost, for veterans with service-connected disabilities.
- Up to $200,000 in mortgage protection for families of veterans with severe service-connected disabilities who’ve had to adapt their home to fit their needs.
To enroll for any of these programs or to learn more, contact your local VA office or visit their website Opens in new window.