A bill to increase the maximum life insurance coverage for service members and veterans to $500,000 has been introduced by a bipartisan group of four lawmakers who say the increase is needed to reflect inflation levels.

The current maximum coverage is $400,000 for both the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance and the Veterans’ Group Life Insurance. The proposal would update “the antiquated SGLI/VGLI policy coverage options that haven’t been changed since 2005,” stated a press release from Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., who introduced the bill June 8, along with Reps. Chip Roy, R-Texas; Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich.; and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa.

The bill “provides a long overdue increase in death benefits to ease financial hardships for our Gold Star Families and other military families,” Levin said, in the announcement. Levin is chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on economic opportunity.

The Department of Veterans Affairs supervises the SGLI and VGLI programs. Under the legislative proposal, the VA would determine the amount of the monthly premium troops would pay for $500,000 worth of coverage; and the proposal requires that the change would not cause the insurance program to operate at a loss.

Currently, the premiums for SGLI are $25 a month for the maximum of $400,000, which includes $1 for Traumatic Injury Protection coverage, or TSGLI. SGLI premiums are the same for every service member, regardless of age or other factors. Service members can choose to reduce their amount of coverage in decrements of $50,000.

The VGLI premiums are based on age, and the cost increases every five years up to age 80. Effective April 1, the VGLI premiums were reduced by an average of 7 percent across all age groups.

Any separating service member who has SGLI coverage is eligible to sign up for VGLI coverage after separation, but they must submit their application and initial premium within 240 days after leaving the military to apply without proof of good health. Those who apply after the 240-day period but before the deadline of one year and 120 days from separation must submit proof of good health by completing a questionnaire regarding medical conditions.

But both those deadlines have been temporarily extended by 90 days because of COVID-19, for service members leaving the military between June 11, 2020, and June 11, 2021.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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