Life insurance for the military: how to get the best policy

Military service members are not disqualified from buying life insurance, but eligibility depends on duties and station of duty for those with orders to deploy. Military members outside the U.S. should wait until they are back in the country to apply.

Rebecca Shoenthal author photo

By

Rebecca Shoenthal

Rebecca Shoenthal

Licensed Insurance Expert

Rebecca Shoenthal is an insurance editor and licensed Life, Health, and Disability agent at Policygenius in New York City. Previously, she worked as a nonfiction book editor. She has a B.A. in Media and Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Updated May 14, 2021|6 min read

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Because of the high risk involved in military service, many service members may think they don’t qualify for life insurance. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Service in the military can be a test of strength and resolve for anyone. Outside of the obvious demands of combat, there’s also the strain that military service puts on families across the country. Having a life insurance policy as a financial safety net to protect military families is crucial.

There are a few things that military personnel applying for life insurance have to keep in mind, including deployment status, duties, station of duty, and physical location when applying for coverage. These key pieces of advice will help any member of the military see which type of life insurance is best to protect their family. 

Key Takeaways

  • A U.S. life insurance application, including the medical exam and final signature, must be completed on U.S. soil

  • Eligibility for life insurance depends on duties and station of duties if you are deploying

  • If you are already deployed, you must wait until you’re back in the U.S. to apply for private (civilian) life insurance

  • The military offers group life insurance coverage, called Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)

Primary questions life insurance companies ask military personnel

Military personnel looking to apply for life insurance need to be aware of "knockout criteria" – that is, circumstances that will automatically disqualify them from coverage. Life insurance companies will want to know about the details of your military service, and each answer will lead to a different outcome.

The two primary questions an insurer asks:

Do you have orders for deployment?

  1. If deploying to an insurable country (more on that in the next section), the applicant can proceed with their application

  2. If the deployment is to a country with a State Department-issued warning, the applicant is declined

What is your job title, and can you describe job duties?

  1. If the applicant will be performing office work, recruiting, and other non-life threatening jobs, they can proceed with the application

  2. If the applicant is likely to see dangerous activity (i.e., combat), they will be declined

  3. If the applicant is a member of Special Forces, Rangers, SEALS, Marine Force Recon, Marine Raiders, Delta Force, Air Force Pararescue, or a similar unit, they will be declined

Life insurance companies will do a thorough examination of your military status to determine your coverage eligibility. Depending on your answers to the following questions, you can either be approved or rejected for a life insurance policy.

Military-Flow-Chart-Desktop

It’s important to keep in mind that, depending on your answer, you may be automatically declined, but you won’t be automatically accepted. Clearing these knockout criteria just allows you to continue with the application process, and your rates and coverage limits will be decided by your rank and underwriting outcome.

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How deployment location affects military life insurance eligibility

Having deployment orders doesn’t immediately disqualify a member of the military from getting life insurance coverage. However, where you’re deploying can play a role in coverage availability.

Life insurance underwriters use guidelines set by the State Department to decide whether deploying to a foreign country will disqualify a military applicant from getting a life insurance policy. The State Department assigns countries one of two classifications: 

  • Warnings: long-term concerns in places experiencing dangers, such as unstable governments or civil wars

  • Alerts: short-term concerns, such as elevated terror threats or health alerts

How rank affects military life insurance coverage

When civilians apply for life insurance, it’s a simple matter of figuring out how much coverage they need, and the amount of coverage they can afford.

For military personnel, there’s an extra consideration. Some insurance companies have specific coverage limits based on the applicant’s rank, regardless of military branch. The exact coverage limits vary by individual situations. As mentioned above, Special Forces, Rangers, SEALS, Marine Force Recon, Marine Raiders, Delta Force, Air Force Pararescue, and other similar units will be immediately declined even if they don’t have active deployment orders.

Here’s an example of coverage limits by military pay grade:

  • $250,000 for pay grades E1–E5

  • $500,000 for pay grades E6–E9 and W1–W5

  • $1,000,000 for commissioned officers (O-1 – O-10)

The reason for these coverage limits is based on the same logic a life insurance underwriteruses for classifying civilians: the higher the risk of dying during the term of a life insurance policy, the more expensive your premiums will be or the more likely you might be declined for coverage

High-ranking officials are less likely to see the same sort of combat dangers as lower enlisted service members, which puts them at a lower risk. 

Some insurers follow the same age/income multiplier guidelines used for civilians:

AgeMultiply income by:
40 and underx25
41-50x20
51-55x15
56-65x10
66-70x5

Note: Reserve or Guard members not alerted or mobilized follow the insurance company’s same income replacement guidelines as civilians.

Flat extras for pilots and aviation crew members

Most pilots see higher life insurance rates due to the increased risk involved with their job. Military pilots and crew members are no different and will be required to pay a flat extra fee, ranging from $3 to $12 per $1,000 of coverage. Exact amounts vary by insurer. 

That means a pilot in the military with a $500,000 policy might have to pay $1,500 to $6,000 more per year for their policy.

Non-frontline aviation crew members, including flight nurses and instructors, can possibly get flat extras too, but at a lower rate (around $2 per $1,000 of coverage).

Working with an independent broker like Policygenius can be particularly helpful when comparing different private insurance companies and figuring out how much life insurance you need.

Military life insurance death benefits

Life insurance death benefits and the claims process works the same for service members as it does for civilians. 

It’s extremely rare for a life insurance claim to be denied if the person claiming the payment is the named beneficiary. Except for suicide within the first two years of activating the policy, or lying on your application, most insurers pay out the death benefit for most causes of death, including military-related deaths.

Almost every life insurance partner at Policygenius does not have exclusions within individual policies that void life insurance coverage if the insured is killed while deployed, while in combat, or during a time of war. As long as the policy is still active at the time of death, beneficiaries will receive death benefits. 

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Military spouse life insurance

Spouses of military personnel who are not servicemembers themselves have all the same life insurance options available as other civilians. Most married couples have the option of buying separate life insurance policies or a joint policy, which insures both spouses but is costlier. 

We recommend that military spouses, including non-working spouses, opt for their own separate policy in most cases. Though non-working spouses don’t provide an income, life insurance can compensate for the loss of the labor they perform.

Another option: the military sponsors Family Servicemembers' Group Life insurance (FSGLI) policies for spouses and dependent children of those covered with SGLI policies. We recommend comparing FSGLI rates with those from private insurers.

Military-provided Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)

Full-time service members can enroll in a group life insurance plan called Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI), which has a maximum coverage amount of $400,000. It also includes traumatic injury protection so military members receive payment in certain conditions such as amputations, paraplegia, and blindness.

Like other group life insurance plans from other employers, SGLI plans might not offer enough life insurance coverage for your family, depending on your income, debt, or expenses. That’s why we recommend looking into additional, private life insurance, as detailed above, to help fill the coverage gap.

The best companies for military life insurance

The best life insurance companies for military personnel to apply through will always be the ones that can provide the best rates and coverage amounts while accommodating your individual situation. 

Getting life insurance coverage involves a few more considerations for military personnel than it does for the average citizen, but getting a policy is well within reach if you’re living in the United States when you apply. Members of the military should not automatically assume that they’re uninsurable because of their profession.

Rather than writing it off entirely, military personnel should get a life insurance quote and talk to a licensed expert to get an idea of what their coverage options look like.

Still need help? Find the best life insurance company for you.

Life insurance for military FAQs

How much is life insurance in the military?

The cost of life insurance through the military depends on the amount of coverage, which ranges from $50,000 to $400,000. The cost of life insurance through private insurers depends on several factors, including your age, health, hobbies, gender, and duties within the military.

Do military members have life insurance?

Full-time service members are eligible for group life insurance coverage with the military. Military members looking for more life insurance coverage, or who have less risky roles within the military, may get better rates from private life insurance companies.

How long does military life insurance last?

After you leave active duty, the life insurance coverage provided by the military (SGLI) remains active for 120 days. Private life insurance lasts as long as the term length, which can range from 5 to 40 years or longer if you opt for permanent life insurance.

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