Service members slated to receive increase in insurance coverage

23 Jun 2005 | Pfc. Drew W. Barker

All servicemembers will have their maximum level of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance coverage increased from $250,000 to $400,000 on Sept. 1, 2005, in accordance with the Honoring Every Requirement of Exemplary Service Act, which has been approved by congress.

“It’s a very good thing,” said Pfc. Ryan Guganious, a maintenance administrative clerk with battalion administration, Headquarters and Support Bn., Marine Corps Base. “Nothing can ease the pain of losing a loved one, but not having to worry about the financial troubles that families of fallen troops are left with can help.”

The HEROES Act was created to amend title 10, United States Code, to increase to $100,000 the amount payable under the Department of Defense death gratuity program and to amend title 38, United States Code, to increase to $400,000 the maximum coverage under the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance program. The enactment would increase the current amounts of $12,000 for the death gratuity and $250,00 for maximum SGLI coverage, according to

“America’s armed forces are made up of the best trained, most courageous troops in the world,” said U.S. Senator Gordon H. Smith of Oregon. “We owe so much to them for the safety and freedom we enjoy, and extending benefits to the families of the fallen is our duty.”

The act will bring about many changes military servicemembers and their families need to be aware of, according to Greg Hosmer, senior attorney of Insurance Services with the Department of Veteran Affairs.

In addition to the SGLI increases, one of the most significant changes is in regards to available coverage amounts. Servicemembers will only be able elect coverage in increments of $50,000, instead of the previous increments of $10,000, according to the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance.

Another important aspect of the HEROES Act is a retroactive policy regarding death gratuity payments.

The DoD will be paying a death gratuity of $150,000 for deaths that occurred in specified combat conditions on or after October 7, 2001 but before Sept. 1, 2005, or were incurred in the theater of operations of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, according to the Office of SGLI.

Although the act introduces many new features, it will not effect some parts of the original policy.

The premium rates for SGLI coverage will remain the same. Currently the rate is 6.5 cents per $1,000 per month. Therefore if a member elects to keep the new maximum coverage, they will pay $26.00 per month, according to Hosmer.

Although the act doesn’t change premium rates, it does include a clause that relates to the partial waiver of some charges.

SGLI members serving in areas or operations designated by the Secretary of Defense as combat operations or zones of combat will have the premiums for $150,000 of coverage paid for by the DoD. This clause only applies while members are serving in designated areas or operations, according to the Office of SGLI.

The new act will not have repercussions for current members of the Veterans Group Life Insurance Program, however, all separating servicemembers covered under SGLI on or after Sept. 1, 2005 in an amount greater than $250,000 will be able to convert to VGLI at the new higher level.

The bipartisan act, which met little resistance in either the House or the Senate, was spearheaded by former Democratic vice presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

"We can never fully repay the debt we owe the brave men and women in uniform who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedoms," said Lieberman. "But we can help lessen the financial hardship on the families who must bury their son, daughter, wife or husband killed in combat.”