SGLI, life & death issue

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
  • 185th ARW Wing Public Affairs
Service members are automatically enrolled in Service Members Group Life insurance or SGLI when they first join the military for up to $400,000. In some cases this may be the first and last time they think about life insurance.

Sadly if a service member's SGLI information is not current it could result in slowing the process of paying the gratuity or result in the money going somewhere other than they intended.

Keeping your SGLI information current will ensure the beneficiaries you identified will receive compensation in the event of your death. By keeping your information current you can ensure family members know what your intentions are during an extremely difficult time.

The SGLI program, run by the Veterans Administration, is designed to provide low cost term life insurance for all members of the military. According the VA website, service members should review their beneficiary information regularly. The website also says that certain life events should also trigger a review of your beneficiary information.

For some members of the military it may just be a matter of procrastination or something they don't think is worth worrying about until they deploy. A service member may be preoccupied with the demands of the job and responsibilities at home. You may have heard someone say "I will update my SGLI information when I have time; it is not really a priority."

In just a few years, service members can have at least some major life changes. Something as simple as a beneficiary's change of address could significantly slow the process of paying out the SGLI gratuity. According to the U.S. Census Bureau most Americans move at a rate of about once every five years, military members move more often at a rate of every two to three years.

Even when a service member is given a reminder to update their information, it may be easily put off because they think they will never die. They may think to themselves, "I'm young, not married, very healthy and do not plan to deploy anytime soon. I am not going to die."

Most members of the military are young and healthy and have a lower mortality rate than civilian counterparts, according to the National Institutes of Health website. However, according to the same website war-related injuries accounted for less than 50 percent of all deaths. The bottom line is that everyone will die and no one knows when. We could live a long healthy life and we might not.

A service member may be callous about death or it may be a subject they don't want to think about. Whatever the case it is possible to develop a flippant attitude towards the subject of death. Someone may say, "After I'm gone, I don't care," towards the chore of updating their SGLI.

The service member may not care, but something to consider is what is left behind like a mortgage or other debt. By keeping your information up to date you ensure the maximum amount of money goes to the person or persons you have identified. Not keeping your information up to date makes a bad situation worse for your family. In an article from, Jason Steenwyk points out that by designating a next of kin as a beneficiary also allows your assets to bypass probate. He says this is also why beneficiaries should be identified by name in order to keep benefits from being devoured by lawyers' fees and creditors.

Ensuring your benefits are kept in the family is a quick and simple process. According to Kendra Ruiz, Directorate of Human Resources Fort Leavenworth, Kan. casualty assistance center, who is responsible for all of Iowa, it is a command responsibility to ensure service members update their beneficiary information, she says action should be taken when any "life" event occurs like a marriage, birth of a child or change of address.

"The most incorrect information service members receive is they are told to put their decisions for SGLI disbursement in a will. A will does not override what the 8286 [VA form SGLV-8286] says." said Ruiz.

Ruiz says that even though this is a regular requirement, service members still don't always keep their SGLI information up to date. Service member's action or inaction could have serious ramifications for those who will be taking care of their obligations after they are gone.

"Basically whatever is on the latest document on file is what the Army is going to pay out." Ruiz said. "They have to be clear, if what is on the form is not what they intended concerning the principle beneficiary they need to change it immediately."

Even though service members are automatically enrolled in SGLI when they first join the military, making sure information that is kept on file is current and up to date is ultimately up to each individual.

Service members can begin by downloading the SGLV-8286 form, from the VA website ( ) and submit the completed form to their personal office.  If a service member needs additional assistance, they can use their chain of command, or visit the VA website.

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