Overview of the Veterans Life Insurance Program

Veterans' life insurance, officially known as the Veterans' Group Life Insurance (VGLI), is a federal life insurance policy issued by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). It is available to all active-duty and reserve members of all branches of the U.S. military once they are discharged. VGLI is an extension of the similarly structured Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI). The insurance coverage begins after a service member is discharged and lasts until he or she dies. The service member's designated beneficiaries receive the benefits.

Understanding Veterans Group Life Insurance

When active-duty and reserve service members serve, they receive life insurance coverage under SGLI. If they have been discharged from service, they can apply to convert their policies into VGLI. Otherwise, their SGLI coverage will lapse, and they will have to buy private life insurance policies. So long as they make regular payments, the coverage will be provided until the day they die. The coverage can be worth anywhere from $10,000 to $400,000.

Eligibility for Veterans Group Life Insurance

Veterans can apply for VGLI if they were covered under SGLI and were active-duty members of any branch of the military or members of the Ready Reserves, Individual Ready Reserve, Inactive National Gard or Public Health Service Inactive Reserve Corps. If the veterans had part-time SGLI, they can qualify only if they suffered an injury or disability while performing a military duty. The injury or disability has to be severe enough to render them ineligible for any form of private life insurance.

Applying for Veterans Group Life Insurance

Eligible veterans can apply no sooner than 45 days after they were discharged. They have to apply no later than 1 year and 120 days after they were discharged--otherwise, they automatically forfeit their coverage. If they apply sooner than 120 days after their discharge, they don't need to provide proof of good health. If they apply more than 120 days after their discharge, they will need to provide proof of good health--otherwise, they are automatically disqualified. In both cases, they need to enclose their first month's premium.

Usually, the copy of the application for the VGLI will be mailed automatically to all eligible SGLI beneficiaries. If the application isn't mailed, they can apply using form SGLV 8714 and enclose a copy of their DD 214. For a veteran who applies sooner than 120 days after being discharged, the VGLI coverage kicks in on the 121st day.

For a veteran who applies after that, the coverage kicks in whenever all the required documents are verified. If his or her SGLI coverage gets extended due to a service-related disability, the VGLI coverage kicks in after the extension period ends.

Designating a Beneficiary

As part of the application process, veterans will need to designate their beneficiaries. A beneficiary can be a person, firm, corporation or some other legal entity. Veterans are free to change their beneficiaries any time. To do this, they will need to complete and sign form SGLV 8721.

Veterans Group Life Insurance Costs

Once the veterans are approved for VGLI, the coverage will last for as long as they pay premiums. The premiums change depending on the age of the applicant and the frequency of payments. Usually, the premium payments have to be made monthly, but other arrangements may be approved depending on the veteran's income.

Premiums can be paid either directly or indirectly, using a variety of print and electronic methods. Veterans should visit the VA's official website for a more detailed explanation.

If a veteran falls behind on premium payments, he or she has 60 days to catch up. If that's not enough, the coverage automatically lapses. A veteran can reapply for coverage within 5 years of the lapse. He or she will need to provide proof of good health if applying more than six months after the coverage lapsed.