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VA Offers New Federal Benefit To Service Members' Families

(NAPSI)-The families of most American active-duty servicemembers and reservists have gained new life insurance coverage under a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program.

"This is a major new benefit for today's servicemembers," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi. "It recognizes the changing financial needs of our military families and provides them with a new measure of security."

The government has offered a variety of life insurance programs to military members since World War I, and nearly all of today's new recruits accept policy coverage through pay deductions. The change widens the program to cover the life of their spouse and the lives of any dependent children.

The change was provided under the Veterans' Survivor Benefits Improvement Act. That law expanded the popular Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program to generally allow spousal coverage up to $100,000 plus $10,000 per child.

Coverage was automatic at the highest levels when the law went into effect unless the servicemember declines the insurance or requests a lower coverage level. The spouse's insurance level cannot exceed the servicemember's policy.

The vast majority of servicemembers today take SGLI coverage to the highest limit allowed for active duty members, $250,000. Like SGLI coverage for the servicemember, the family coverage will be available in $10,000 increments.

While military members pay premium costs of 80-cents-a- month per $10,000 of coverage for their life insurance, the new coverage for children is free, and the spousal premium for each $10,000 of coverage will range from 90 cents for spouses below age 35 to $5.50 per month for those over age 54.

Rates and more details are available on VA's Web site at

Under the new family life insurance policies, if the servicemember drops his or her SGLI coverage or leaves the military, the spouse's policy can be converted to a private life insurance policy within 120 days. Such conversion options currently are offered by 86 commercial insurance companies.

Spouse policy conversion also is available in the event of the servicemember's death, or if the marriage ends by divorce. The coverage of dependent children is not convertible to a private policy.

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