By Donna Miles, American Forces Press
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Defense and Veterans Affairs
officials are ironing out details of programs that will expand
benefits provided through Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI).
The $82 billion supplemental legislation signed into law by
President Bush May 11 increases maximum SGLI coverage to $400,000 and
provides payouts of up to $100,000 for servicemembers with traumatic
injuries, explained Stephen Wurtz, the VA's deputy assistant director
The increased SGLI coverage will take effect Sept. 1, and the
so-called "traumatic SGLI" benefit, Dec. 1. Wurtz said the
legislation directs that both benefits will be retroactive to Oct. 7,
Traumatic SGLI benefits will be retroactive for troops who have
lost limbs, eyesight or speech or received other traumatic injuries as
a direct results of injuries received during Operation Iraqi Freedom
or Operation Enduring Freedom. The benefit does not apply to
servicemembers suffering from disease.
The retroactive coverage increase is payable as a result of
deaths in either operation, or under other conditions prescribed by
the secretary of defense, Wurtz said.
Servicemembers enrolled in the SGLI program will notice an
increase in their premiums when the increases take effect. The
traumatic SGLI benefit will be rolled into the basic SGLI program and
likely will cost about $1 a month, Wurtz said.
Troops opting for maximum SGLI coverage -- $400,000 vs. the
current $250,000 -- will see their monthly premiums increase from
$16.25 to $26, Wurtz said. This is based on the rate of 6.5 cents per
$1,000 of insurance coverage.
SGLI coverage is currently available in $10,000 increments, but
as of Sept. 1, the increments will increase to $50,000.
Because the rates have not changed, servicemembers who retain
$250,000 or less coverage will see no increase in their premiums,
Wurtz said, except for the $1 "traumatic SGLI" premium.
While these expanded benefits will be provided retroactively,
affected service-members won't be charged retroactive payments, Wurtz
said. The Department of Defense (DoD) will absorb that cost.
In a new twist introduced through the supplemental legislation,
troops with dependents must get their spouse's approval to purchase
less than the full amount of SGLI coverage.
In the case of members who are not married, notice will be
provided to the designated beneficiary when the member purchases less
than the maximum coverage.
The new traumatic SGLI benefit is designed to provide "a
quick infusion of cash" for cash-strapped families of troops
recuperating from traumatic injuries received in the line of duty,
Compensation will range from $25,000 to $100,000, and is
designed to help families of severely wounded troops leave their homes
and jobs to be with their loved one during recovery.
"These families incur a lot of expenses, and this is
designed to help them financially," Wurtz said.
While VA staff members consult with DoD to write regulations
that will put the new SGLI benefits into effect, Wurtz said,
"lots and lots of details have to be worked out."
Among outstanding issues is the fact that the expanded SGLI
coverage is part of the supplemental legislation package that funds
operations only through Sept. 30. That's 30 days after the new SGLI
limit takes effect and two months before the traumatic SGLI benefit
Wurtz said VA is confident Congress will resolve this issue
before there's any lapse in coverage.
VA will continue to oversee and control the SGLI program.
For more information about SGLI see the Web site: http://www.insurance.va.gov/sgliSite/SGLI/SGLI.htm.