Opt Out or Pay: All Troops to Automatically Get Life Insurance March 1

Pocket watch with words "life insurance" on face
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All eligible troops are going to be signed up for $500,000 worth of Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage starting on March 1 -- even those who chose not to buy SGLI coverage in the past -- unless they opt out.

A law passed in October 2022 mandated the increase.

Military members will be charged automatically unless they take action before the March deadline. The new amount represents a $100,000 increase in the maximum benefit. Administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the insurance pays your beneficiaries if you die while on active duty or while serving in the National Guard or Reserve.

Coverage starts March 1, but new automatic paycheck deductions won't kick in until March 31, giving service members the month to opt out or avoid the full $31 premium for $500,000 in coverage. The prior maximum of $400,000 cost a monthly premium of $24.

Troops eligible for the life insurance plan may also buy less coverage, available in $50,000 increments, for lower monthly premiums.

The new deductions tack on another $1 for "TSGLI" coverage as well. TSGLI pays out in the event of a traumatic injury. The bundle also comes with $10,000 in free life insurance coverage for each dependent child. (TSGLI stands for Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection.)

During March, eligible troops need to decide whether to:

  • Do nothing and accept the maximum coverage.
  • Reduce their coverage. TSGLI and dependent child coverage remain in place all the way down to the coverage minimum of $50,000.
  • Change their beneficiaries.
  • Decline the coverage entirely. This will also cancel the TSGLI and dependent child coverage.

Go to the SGLI Online Enrollment System from March 1-31 to make any needed changes; access it on the milConnect website.

Those eligible for SGLI include service members on active duty; cadets and midshipmen at the military academies; certain Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets and midshipmen; drilling Guard or Reserve members; and Individual Ready Reserve members in a mobilization category. Commissioned members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Public Health Service also qualify.

Rising costs of living spurred the increase in the maximum benefit, last raised from $250,000 to $400,000 in 2005, according to the VA's frequently asked questions addressing the change. The department said it's enrolling everyone automatically so that all can benefit "without any medical underwriting" -- in other words, without taking your health into account.

Some more particulars surrounding the change:

  • Existing SGLI coverage of a spouse under Family SGLI won't change unless the service member declines SGLI in March, in which case the family coverage ends the first day of the month after declining.
  • The increase will not be available retroactively.
  • The SGLI paycheck deduction for March will either be the same as the service member was already paying; or $25, which was the prior maximum plus TSGLI. In case of a claim -- if you die in March and your beneficiaries are due the payout -- the difference will be deducted to get up to the month's full premium.
  • Service members who reduce or decline the coverage and later want to increase it will have to answer medical questions.
  • The VA debuted a new life insurance program for veterans on Jan. 1.

Amanda Miller can be reached at amanda.miller@military.com.

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