A New Mexico congressman wants to increase disabled veterans’ life insurance payouts more than eightfold, arguing the program hasn’t received a proper update in almost 70 years.

On Friday, Republican Rep. Steve Pearce introduced legislation to overhaul the life insurance program for service-connected disabled veterans, raising the cap on payouts from $10,000 to $95,000 and giving eligible veterans more time to sign up for the program.

“Veterans injured in combat face many challenges as they return home and adjust back into civilian life,” he said in a statement. “What makes it even more challenging for veterans and their families is having to accept an antiquated insurance system that does little to provide the quality care and services they deserve.”

The S-DVI program, created in 1951, provides life insurance to disabled veterans who often would be rejected for private-sector policies because of their service-connected injuries.

But Pearce said the current premium and payout structure for the program is based on annuity tables from 1941. His legislation would bring those figures up to 2017 standards and mandate regular updates every few years.

Veterans with a service-connected disability and who left the military under other-than-dishonorable terms currently have to enroll in the program within two years of receiving their rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Pearce’s bill would extend that to 10 years to allow more veterans the opportunity to participate.

The measure has already received backing from several veterans groups, including Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Fleet Reserve Association.

“The S-DVI program was designed to provide affordable life insurance coverage to disabled veterans unable to purchase private insurance due to their service-connected disabilities,” said Garry Augustine, Washington executive director for Disabled American Veterans. “However, its cost and benefits have been seriously eroded over the past 50 years.”

“Rep. Pearce’s legislation will modernize the program by using current actuarial data to lower premiums as well as adjusting for inflation to significantly increase the benefit payout.”

Currently, premiums for the S-DVI program run about $25 a month for $10,000 of coverage. Supporters hope the new updates will provide more value for veterans and possibly lower premiums, as well.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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