Once you leave the service, you have the option to sign up for Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI). VGLI is different from most insurance options you’ll find in the civilian world, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a better choice. In fact, VGLI is quite limited in it’s scope.
What is VA life insurance?
VA life insurance — or more formally known as Veterans’ Group Life Insurance — is a renewable term group life insurance program for veterans. If you’re in the military and have Servicemembers Group Life insurance (SGLI), the life insurance plan offered to current military members, you can transfer your SGLI plan into a VGLI plan once you leave the military.
If you didn’t have SGLI in the military, you may still qualify for VGLI, but only within a certain time frame of leaving the military and only if you meet specified criteria.
VGLI is offered to any service member without requiring a medical checkup, but only if you apply for it within 240 days after leaving the military. Otherwise, you’ll only be accepted if you’re in good health.
How does VA life insurance work?
VGLI offers death benefit amounts between $10,000 and $400,000 and if you had SGLI while in the military your initial VGLl coverage amount is based on that amount. You can increase your coverage amount by increments of $25,000 every five years, until you either reach $400,000 in coverage or you reach 60 years old.
Your VGLI premiums aren’t locked in because it’s a renewable term policy, which means it renews every year as long as you pay the premiums. Rates are only dependent on two factors: your age and your coverage amount. Since it’s a renewable term policy, your rates will increase every five years once you enter a new age bracket.
Is VA life insurance worth it?
VA life insurance may be worth it for young veterans who have health issues or use tobacco. However, because VA life insurance bases its rates solely on age, and not health, this makes VA life insurance uncompetitive for veterans who are healthy. Healthy veterans can find cheaper life insurance with an insurer who gives lower rates to healthy people.
Even veterans who aren’t in the best health may find VA life insurance too expensive compared with other insurers, especially if you’re older than 40 years old. Your VA life insurance rates rise every five years, which makes paying for 20 years of life insurance expensive, compared with a standard term policy from another insurer that locks in your rate at purchase.
For veterans who have serious health complications and cannot find any other insurer who will accept their application, VA life insurance is a great option because it’s guaranteed to accept you without any medical exam.
Pros and cons of VA life insurance
- Guaranteed issue. While VGLI only guarantees issue within the first 240 days after you leave the military, it can be a big benefit for veterans whose health is poor.
- Tobacco friendly. VGLI life insurance rates don’t penalize tobacco users, so heavy users may get a lower rate than they would through a standard insurer.
- Convertible without a medical exam. You can convert your VGLI policy into a standard permanent life insurance through a traditional insurance company, without having to prove you’re in good health.
- No exclusions or contestability period. There is no contestability period, the standard two-year time frame where an insurance company can investigate and potentially deny a claim. There aren’t any exclusions either, such as for suicide or passing away in a war zone.
- Renewable term coverage only. VGLI doesn’t offer any type of permanent life insurance policy, nor does it offer a standard term policy with a locked-in rate.
- Rates solely based on age. While this could be good for people who are heavy tobacco users or in poor health, it makes rates much more expensive for veterans in average or good health.
- Rates aren’t locked in. Your rates will go up every five years to reflect your older age, making it a very expensive policy in your 40s, 50s and 60s.
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Alternatives to VA life insurance
If you’re healthy and don’t use tobacco, you’ll likely find more competitive life insurance options than VGLI. But even veterans who aren’t in the best health or use tobacco have other options to consider.
- USAA. USAA offers more traditional life insurance options, including both term and permanent policies, to veterans and their family members. You can buy higher limits than the $400,000 cap with VGLI.
- AAFMAA. The American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association is available to veterans who can buy a number of various term and permanent life insurance policies.
- Traditional life insurers. You can find a standard life insurance company that’s as equally competitive as a military-only life insurer, making it worth checking out, particularly if you’re healthy.
VA life insurance is offered through the Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) program. It comes with no medical exam and no penalty for tobacco users, making it particularly attractive for veterans who aren’t in the best health or smoke tobacco regularly. But it’s only life insurance product is a renewable term, which means it will renew every year and your premiums will increase with age.
If you’re a veteran, you have options other than VGLI, so be sure to compare life insurance companies before picking the best option for you.
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