Life Insurance for Military Members
Many people are surprised to learn there are several options when it comes to life insurance for military members. Depending on where you buy your policy and the type you choose, your rates can vary widely. Our guide breaks down what active military personnel and veterans need to know about finding the coverage that meets their needs
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What Is Life Insurance for Veterans?
Just like for civilians, life insurance for military members, both active and retired, provides a financial safety net for the loved ones they leave behind. Along with funeral costs, it can help pay for end-of-life medical bills, outstanding debts like loans, and living expenses for the continued care of family members.
Because veterans and active military members often face health issues as a result of their service, it’s often harder for them to get traditional coverage. The good news is that many companies offer policies no matter a service person’s coverage needs or budget, so life insurance is within reach of just about every vet and active military member.
What Veterans Life Insurance Covers
Life insurance for military personnel usually includes coverage for spouses and children. Depending on the provider, you may be able to get coverage for other close family members, such as grandchildren. As with civilian policies, many providers offer discounts for those in good health.
Types of Life Insurance for Military and Veterans
Life Insurance from the VA
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a few different types of life insurance. Their rates are much less expensive than what you’ll get from private insurers.
- Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI): As soon as you enlist in the military, you’re automatically enrolled for the maximum award amount of $400,000. You can request less coverage or opt out completely. This policy comes with TSGLI, and stays active for 120 days after you’re discharged. If you’re completely disabled at the time you leave the service, you can extend your coverage to as long as two years after you’re discharged.
- Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI): This policy provides additional financial support of up to $100,000 for service people who receive a debilitating injury on or off duty. It pays expenses related to an individual’s recovery, including housing expenses and lost income from the inability to work.
- Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (FSGLI): If you’re covered under SGLI, you may opt into FSGLI coverage for your spouse and dependent children.
- Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI): You have one year and 120 days after you end your military career to apply for VGLI. If you have an SGLI policy, you also have the option to convert it into a civilian policy (also called a commercial policy).
- Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance (S-DVI): S-DVI is available to those honorably released from duty as the result of a disability connected to their service. If you become completely disabled and are unable to work in any capacity, you can get supplemental S-DVI coverage up to $30,000.
Whole Life Insurance
Whether you’re active duty or a retired military member, you can find whole life insurance from a variety of private providers. The biggest benefit of these policies is that they stay in effect as long as the premiums are paid. Because they don’t expire, you can rest assured your family will receive financial support to cover your final expenses when you pass away.
However, not all private insurers pay a death benefit for combat-related deaths. Some only reimburse loved ones on the premiums paid. It’s important for active service members to look for policies that guarantee a death benefit for service-related deaths.
Term Life Insurance
Private insurers also offer life insurance for military members in a variety of term lengths. While it’s a cheaper option than whole policies, it expires. You’ll need to buy another policy once the term ends if you want to continue having coverage. Life insurance only gets more expensive as we get older, and on top of that, active duty service members tend to receive higher rates because of the dangers that come with their jobs.
Burial Insurance (Final Expense Life Insurance)
Burial insurance (also referred to as final expense insurance) is a policy type that makes it possible for just about everyone to get whole life insurance. It comes in smaller death benefit amounts than other insurance types, because its main purpose is to pay for funeral costs. However, the funds can be used in any way your loved ones wish.
Many burial insurance policies don’t require a health exam, and instead only ask for you to answer a few health questions. They’re also available to older adults who have trouble finding affordable whole or term life insurance. This makes this coverage a great option to veterans planning their funerals as well as active military members planning for their family’s financial future in the event of their death.
Cost of Life Insurance for Military Members
Life insurance through the VA is less expensive than buying it through a private insurer. Still, many active and retired military members want additional coverage to ensure their families will be protected if they pass away.
You’ll be automatically enrolled in Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) when you go active duty, and you can also sign up for Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (FSGLI). Once you are honorably discharged, you can apply for Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) and Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance (S-DVI) if you meet certain criteria. You can speak with your superior or directly with the VA to learn about the rates you may receive.
Factors that Impact Cost and Eligibility of Military Life Insurance
If you’ll be seeking additional insurance coverage as an active duty member or a veteran, there are a few different service-related factors that may affect your rate.
- Deployment orders: Deployment orders don’t usually mean you can’t get coverage, but the location you’re being sent may impact your rate. If you’re being sent to a foreign country with risk factors like an unstable government, ongoing conflict, or recent terror threats or health concerns, you may pay higher premiums than those sent to places without these risks.
- Rank: Those ranked highest in the military are less likely to be in the direct line of combat. This makes them less of a risk to insurance companies (in other words, less likely to die). This is why the higher you’re ranked, the better premiums you’ll receive.
- Role: Underwriters also use rank to assess your risk level when you apply for insurance. The more dangerous your position, the higher your rates will be. Some individuals may not be eligible for coverage at all.
Questions Life Insurance Companies Ask Military Members
Active and veteran military members must answer the same life insurance medical exam questions that civilians do when getting private insurance. They are also required to take a physical health exam. In addition, they’ll be asked questions directly relating to their service, such as:
- Have you ever been deployed, or do you currently have deployment orders?
- Where have you been or where will you be deployed?
- What is or was your job title(s)?
- What is or were your duties?
- How long have you served?
- If you are no longer serving, how long were you in the military?
If you apply for a burial insurance policy, you may not have to take a physical health exam or answer an extensive questionnaire about your military service. In many cases, you only need to complete a brief survey that asks for general health information.
How Much Life Insurance Active Military Members Need
Everyone is unique, so there is no single answer for how much life insurance active military personnel need. As one example, if you have a spouse and children who rely on your income, you probably need more coverage than someone with no dependents. If you want to leave money behind for your loved ones’ living expenses after your funeral, your unpaid bills, and your other final expenses, you should also consider policies with larger death benefits.
How Much Life Insurance Veterans Need
When deciding on an amount of life insurance for veterans, vets should make the same considerations as active military when deciding how much life insurance they need. You can work with the VA or a private insurance agent to help you determine the amount that’s right for you.
Can active duty military members get life insurance?
Most people on active duty can get some form of life insurance from the VA or a private agency. If you have a role considered extremely high risk, you may not qualify for coverage from a private insurer.
What type of life insurance is offered to military members?
In general, military members are eligible for whole, term, and burial insurance policies. In addition, they may receive members-only coverage from the VA, including:
- Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)
- Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI)
- Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)
- Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI)
- Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance (S-DVI)
How long does life insurance for military members last?
Most of the time, whole life from private agencies (including final expense insurance) is permanent life insurance coverage that remains in effect as long as the premiums are paid. Depending on the policy, though, your military service may cause the policy to be cancelled, like if you’re deployed somewhere dangerous or take on a dangerous job position.
Term life insurance expires after the term limit you agreed to for your policy. You’ll need to buy new coverage if you still want a policy to protect your loved ones.
Policies from the VA have different rules. SGLI usually stays active for 120 days after your service ends, but that can be extended to a maximum of two years. TSGLI is temporary support that pays for certain expenses related to an injury. If you buy a VGLI or S-DVI policy after you leave the military, it will stay in effect as long as you keep up with your premiums.
Is life insurance more expensive for military members?
The VA offers lower rates on life insurance for veterans and active service members than private insurers do. Depending on the policy you buy through an insurance agency, you may pay higher rates than civilians, especially for standard whole and term life insurance policies. This is because most service people are considered higher risk (or more likely to die) than civilians. In some cases, you may not qualify at all.
What is a war clause?
Some policies from private insurers have what’s referred to as a “war clause,” or a clause stating there’s no death benefit payout if you die in combat. It’s important to look for a policy that guarantees that your loved ones will receive your full policy benefits no matter how you pass away.
Life insurance for military members, both active and retired, is an important tool for providing your family financial support if you pass away. While the VA offers some coverage, the death benefits often aren’t large enough to provide adequate support. It’s smart to look for an additional policy that ensures your loved ones won’t be left with a financial burden from any final expenses you leave behind.