The best life insurance policy for you depends on your specific health history and financial needs. Veterans with complex medical conditions who need a small amount of coverage may benefit from staying on Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI).
Others may find a policy from a private insurer can offer more coverage at a lower price. A Policygenius expert can help you choose the best life insurance for your circumstances.
Life insurance options for veterans
Veterans have multiple options for life insurance, some of which are offered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, such as Veterans’ Group Life insurance and Veterans’ Affairs Life Insurance.
You can also purchase life insurance through a private company, or convert your existing Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy to a private policy.
Veterans' group life insurance (VGLI)
All military service members are automatically enrolled in SGLI, a group life insurance plan, which can be converted into VGLI up to one year and four months after you leave the military. 
You’ll have to continue paying premiums as you transition from SGLI to VGLI to keep the coverage in force.
One of the benefits of converting SGLI to VGLI is that you retain the ability to receive up to 50% of your life insurance proceeds early if you have a life expectancy of nine months or fewer. (This is similar to the accelerated death benefit rider included in many private life insurance policies.)
You won’t be able to get more than $400,000 in coverage and premiums don’t stay level — they increase as you get older.
Veterans with pre-existing conditions should consider converting to VGLI within 240 days from release so they have life insurance coverage while comparing civilian policy options.
To be eligible for VGLI, you must meet at least one of the following qualifications:
You had part-time SGLI as a member of the National Guard or Reserve, and suffered a disability on duty that would disqualify you for standard insurance rates.
You had SGLI while in the military and you’re within one year and 120 days of being released from active duty.
You’re within one year and 120 days of assignment to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) or a branch of service, or to the Inactive National Guard (ING)
You’re within one year and 120 days of being put on the temporary disability retirement list (TDRL). 
Life insurance for disabled veterans – Veterans Affairs Life Insurance
In January 2023, the VA is launching Veterans Affairs Life Insurance (VA Life). This product provides guaranteed issue whole life insurance to veterans under the age of 80 with a service-related disability. 
For this product, you won’t have to take a medical exam or answer medical questions. Premium rates will be level for the duration of the policy.
You can purchase coverage in increments of $10,000 with a maximum of $40,000. However, the policy has a two-year waiting period before the coverage becomes active.
In order to be eligible for VA Life Insurance, you must identify with one of the following:
You are a veteran age 80 or younger with a VA disability rating of 0-100%.
You are age 81 or older, within two years of receiving a new service-connected disability, and you applied for VA disability before age 81.
You are age 81 or older, within two years of receiving a new service-connected disability, and you received a new service-connected disability after turning 81.
VA Life recently replaced a similar benefit known as S-DVI (Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance). Although you can no longer apply for S-DVI as of January 2023, if you have an S-DVI policy already, you may keep it.
S-DVI and VA Life are government-sponsored life insurance products not available through private insurance companies or brokers like Policygenius.
Private life insurance for veterans
Depending on your circumstances and insurance needs, a private life insurance term policy may be an ideal fit for you.
If you’re under the age of 60, have minimal health complications, and are planning to generate income, a term life insurance policy from a private insurer may be competitive in price and offer you higher amounts of coverage to protect your family.
Term life is one of the most affordable life insurance coverage options on the market, only lasts for a set term, and comes with few rules and tax restrictions. Term life is the best option for most people looking to protect their income and provide their family with a financial safety net to cover any debts — including a mortgage or any other types of personal loans.
Many financial planners recommend a coverage amount of about 10 to 15 times your annual income — or enough to cover all of your financial obligations — so the VGLI maximum of $400,000 in coverage might not be enough for you depending on your circumstances.
You can either purchase a private life insurance policy through a carrier or through an independent broker. If you’re choosing to go this route, it’s important to note that the life insurance application process can take up to five to six weeks on average, so you’ll likely want to start shopping around before your existing coverage expires.
Alternatively, you may be able to convert your VGLI or SGLI policy into a private policy directly through the insurer.
When to convert SGLI into private life insurance
Some insurance companies partner with the military to offer civilian life insurance policies to veterans. Service members with SGLI have 120 days from the day they leave active duty to convert their policy to a private life insurance policy with a participating provider.
These providers don’t require a medical exam to convert your policy, so you’ll be approved for the same amount of SGLI coverage you had at a predetermined rate.
If you know you want a private policy, but have health concerns that would raise your rates if you applied directly with a private insurer instead of converting your existing policy, this option is worth considering.
However, you have a shorter window to compare quotes for your new policy than veterans with VGLI, so you’d likely want to get quotes right after or even before leaving active duty.
When to convert VGLI into private life insurance
You can convert VGLI into a civilian policy with participating insurers at any time,
 which gives you ample opportunity to compare policies.
However, you have more limited policy options for conversion than you would with a private policy — you’d need to convert your VGLI into a permanent life insurance policy. These types of policies are typically much more expensive than other options like term insurance. Depending on your age, health, and lifestyle factors, you may be able to get a cheaper policy elsewhere.
How much does life insurance for veterans cost?
A 35-year-old veteran can expect to pay $48 per month for a maximum coverage amount of $400,000 under VGLI according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Your VGLI premiums will increase over time and are based on your coverage amount and age.
If you apply for a private term life insurance policy, your rates will be level for the entire term. Below is a comparison of monthly rates based on age at the time of application.
VGLI, $400,000 coverage amount
$500,000 coverage amount, 20-year term
Methodology: VGLI rates provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Rates for a $500,000, 20-year term policy are based on Preferred rates for male non-smokers offered by Policygenius through carriers including AIG, Banner Life, Brighthouse Financial, Lincoln Financial, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Symetra, Foresters Financial, and Transamerica, and may vary by insurer, term, coverage amount, health class, and state. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 01/09/2023.
A private term policy can cost less than a VGLI policy — even with $100,000 more coverage — but your personal rates will depend on your own age, gender, health, and lifestyle factors.
A Policygenius agent can help you determine which private insurance option would be most cost effective for you, so you can make an informed decision.
What’s the best life insurance for retired military?
The best life insurance for retired military will come down to either VGLI or a private life insurance policy — the military life insurance options after retirement are the same as those for veterans, including VGLI, VA Life, and private civilian insurance.
Two of the main factors you’ll need to consider are your health and your age.
Your health. If you’re managing a pre-existing condition that can impact your life insurance premiums, VGLI might be the cheapest option.
Your age. Life insurance gets more expensive as we become older due to increased risk, so if you’re over the age of 60, a small amount of VGLI coverage may be cheaper than a private life insurance policy.
Every veteran has a unique health history and need for coverage, so the best option for one person may not be the best for another. If you’re not sure which life insurance policy is best for you, or if you’d like to replace your military-sponsored coverage, a Policygenius expert can help you compare quotes.
Frequently asked questions
Do veterans get free life insurance?
The VA supplements some costs associated with life insurance policies for veterans. Some service-disabled veterans with qualifying disabilities were eligible for free coverage using a premium waiver through S-DVI (Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance) but this program stopped taking new applicants on December 31, 2022.
Do disabled veterans have life insurance?
Disabled veterans could have VA-sponsored life insurance through S-DVI (Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance) or VA Life (Veterans Affairs Life Insurance). The VA Life product was implemented to replace S-DVI in January 2023, but if you had an S-DVI policy prior to 2023, you may keep it.
Is there life insurance for retired military members?
Yes. Retired military members can get life insurance through the Department of Veterans Affairs. They can also buy a private life insurance policy.
What’s the difference between SGLI and VGLI?
SGLI (Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance) is a policy you have while you serve and VGLI (Veterans’ Group Life Insurance) is a policy you can have after you retire from active duty.