Our veterans provide a tremendous service to our country. As a small gesture of thanks, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers several benefits to current and retired service members. This includes life insurance. Let’s take a closer look at VA life insurance, how it works and whether you should purchase additional coverage.
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The Best Life Insurance for Veterans:
- Best for Service: USAA
- Best for Universal Life: Prudential
- Best for Seniors: New York Life
- Best for Education: AAFMAA
What is Life Insurance?
Life insurance pays out a benefit to the people or organizations you designate when you die. Sure, it’s not the most pleasant topic, but it’s important to consider from time to time.
Here’s how it works:
- You buy 1 or more policies. You might purchase a policy through the VA or through a civilian employer. You might also buy policies on your own.
- You pay your premiums. You pay the premiums to the insurance company. If you stop paying premiums, you may lose the policy. Whole life policies may offer a reduced policy if you stop paying premiums.
- Your beneficiaries file a claim. When the time comes, your beneficiaries file a claim. Typically, they will need to contact the insurance company, complete a claim form and submit a death certificate.
- Your beneficiaries receive the benefit. Once the insurance company processes the claim, it will send your beneficiaries your benefit.
Your beneficiaries may be able to choose from several benefit options. They could receive a lump sum or opt for payouts over a specific time frame.
How Much Life Insurance Do You Need?
There’s no set formula for deciding how much life insurance. The amount you need will vary throughout your life, depending on your responsibilities and your finances. Some factors to consider include:
- Replacing your income: If you’re the primary breadwinner for your family, you may want to leave enough to replace your income for 1 year or so while your family adjusts.
- Paying off your mortgage: Paying off your mortgage ensures your family has secure housing.
- Paying for educational expenses: Do you want to leave enough for your children’s college education? Keep in mind that the cost of college goes up every year.
- Supporting meaningful organizations: Do you want to leave money to an organization you care about? Life insurance is a simple way to leave a legacy.
If you don’t have a spouse and children, you may not need as much life insurance as someone who does. If you have children, you may want more life insurance while they are young. You might want less once they are independent adults.
Life Insurance and Veterans
VA life insurance is different from life insurance you purchase on your own. It’s less expensive because it’s part of a group plan. It’s also unique because it’s permanent term insurance. As long as you pay the premiums, you have the coverage. The VA has plans for current service members, veterans and family members.
Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance
SGLI offers low-cost term insurance to people currently serving in the military, the reserves or working for NOAA or the USPHS. You can get up to $400,000 in life insurance payouts. The coverage is in effect for 120 days after you leave the service. It’s extended for up to 2 years after you leave if you’re disabled.
If you purchase SGLI, you can also opt for Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI). This coverage provides short term support to help you recover from a severe injury. TSGLI offers $25,000 to $100,000 in support.
Veterans’ Group Life Insurance
SGLI ends 120 days after you leave the service. At that time, you can purchase a VGLI policy or convert your policy to a commercial policy. You can keep the same amount of coverage. You can also increase it by $25,000 every 5 years, up to the $400,000 maximum.
It’s important to apply for this coverage sooner rather than later. Although you have up to 1 year and 120 days to apply for VGLI, if you want for more than 240 days, you have to prove you’re in good health. You can convert your VGLI policy to a commercial policy at any time.
VGLI premiums increase every 5 years. A $400,000 policy costs $144 per month if you are aged 50 to 54. A $400,000 policy costs $1,840 per month if you are age 75 or older. You can lower the amount of coverage to keep your costs down. You can also look for a permanent, whole life policy to lock in a consistent rate that won’t change as you age.
If you choose to convert your SGLI to a commercial policy, you must convert to a permanent whole life policy. You can’t convert to a term or universal life policy. You also have to convert your policy within 120 days of leaving the service.
Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance
Service members with SGLI can also insure spouses and dependent children. You can purchase up to $100,000 in coverage for a spouse and $10,000 for each child. When you leave the service, you can convert these policies to commercial policies.
Life Insurance Premiums
Insurance companies calculate premiums based on several factors. These factors include:
- Age: Younger people have lower premiums.
- Health: If you’re buying a policy on your own, insurance companies may charge you more if you have ongoing health conditions like diabetes.
- Habits: Insurance companies charge smokers more for life insurance.
- Location: Life expectancy varies by region. Insurers may charge more in some areas based on this information.
If you’re converting a VA life insurance policy to a commercial plan, the insurance company may ask you to answer health questions. If you’re in good health, you may get a better rate. You can decline to answer health questions, though.
Whole Life vs. Term Life
VA life insurance is unique — it’s lifetime term insurance. What does this mean? Let’s take a closer look.
- Whole life: A whole life policy is in effect for your entire lifetime as long as you pay the premiums. It also builds up cash value. You can borrow against the cash value. You can also surrender your policy and get the cash value back. The premiums and the benefit amount are always the same.
- Term life: Term life insurance is a policy that’s in effect for a term. Commercial policies typically have a term of 5 to 30 years. These policies don’t have cash value. Some policies will let you renew after the term has ended if you pay a higher rate. VA life insurance is term insurance that is in effect for your lifetime as long as you pay the premiums. The premiums can change.
Which type of policy is best? That depends on your budget and your needs. You may want to buy a whole life policy to work with your VA life insurance. You may want to buy additional coverage if $400,000 isn’t enough to meet your needs (and it might not be, given the rising costs of housing and college).
Best Life Insurance Companies
Which company has options for veterans? Here are the best life insurance companies for service members:
1. Best for Service: USAA
USAA has been offering life insurance since 1963. It has excellent financial ratings and a reputation for superior service. USAA has a dedicated team, called the Survivor Relations Team, to work with loved ones who need to file a claim.
The team is also available to help policyholders and their families in the event of a terminal illness. USAA understands that filing a life insurance claim is stressful, and it has resources to help your loved ones cope. It offers term and whole life policies.
2. Best for Universal Life: Prudential
Prudential is one of the approved companies you can work with to convert a VA policy. If you want an additional policy, you may want to consider one of its universal life policies.
Universal life insurance offers long-term coverage with flexible premiums. You can build up more cash value by paying more in premiums. Prudential offers a variety of universal life insurance policies.
3. Best for Seniors: New York Life
New York Life is one of the best options for life insurance for seniors. It’s partnered with AARP to offer policies more widely.
It’s also one of the approved companies for VA policy conversions.
New York Life offers term policies and whole life policies. Its AARP plans don’t require a medical exam, even if you’re not converting a policy.
4. Best for Education: AAFMAA
AAFMAA was founded in 1879. It’s a not-for-profit financial services provider for members of the military. It offers a wealth of educational resources and calculators to help you make informed decisions.
It has term and whole life policies for service members and their families. It also offers financial planning and mortgage services.
Choosing a Life Insurance Policy
If you’re a current service member, review potential policies carefully. Some commercial life insurance policies exclude deaths due to war. Others may not offer you a policy based on the work that you do. You can still find coverage, but you may need to contact multiple companies to get the coverage you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Q: What are the advantages of term life insurance?
A term life policy allows you to purchase coverage at a guaranteed premium for a limited amount of time. This structure makes term life an affordable choice to protect your family if you have a financial commitment that won’t last forever, like a mortgage or the cost of raising kids. A 20-year term life insurance policy is the most popular life insurance policy purchased to protect loved ones if the unexpected happens. Get a quote here from top providers.
2) Q: What are the advantages of whole life insurance?
Whole life insurance, along with universal life insurance and some other variants, is designed to provide coverage for your entire life. This differs from a term policy that offers guaranteed premiums for a limited time. Permanent life insurance has a savings or investment element that helps the policy to build cash value, making it an asset that can be borrowed against or even sold if you no longer need the policy.
3) Q: How much life insurance do I need?
Many in the industry recommend that you carry 8-12 times your annual income in life insurance coverage. A more granular approach can be beneficial, however, and accounting for debt and ongoing financial commitments in more detail when choosing a coverage amount can better provide for your family than an arbitrary multiple of earnings. Get a customized quote for the best policy.