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.
The best life insurance policy for you depends on your specific health history and financial needs. 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)
You’ll have to continue paying premiums as you transition from SGLI to VGLI to keep the coverage active.
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 get diagnosed with a terminal illness or otherwise 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 $500,000 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). 
Veterans Affairs Life Insurance
In January 2023, the VA launched 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. Premiums 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're a veteran age 80 or younger with a VA disability rating of 0-100%.
You're age 81 or older, within two years of receiving a new service-connected disability, and you applied for VA disability before age 81.
You're 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, 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.
Can veterans buy private life insurance?
Yes, you can choose to buy an individual life insurance policy through a company outside of the VA.
If you’re under the age of 60, have minimal health complications, and are planning to begin another career, a term life insurance policy from a private insurer can be affordable 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 number of years, and doesn’t have any complex tax restrictions or regulations.
Term life is the best option for most people looking to provide a financial safety net for their family in case they unexpectedly pass away.
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 $500,000 in coverage might not be enough for you depending on your circumstances.
How can you buy private life insurance as a veteran?
You can either purchase a private life insurance policy directly through an insurer, or through an independent broker who works with multiple insurance companies.
During my time selling life insurance, I made sure clients were aware the life insurance application process can take up to four to six weeks on average. If you’re considering buying a private policy, 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.
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 insurers 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 much more expensive than other options like term life 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 30-year-old veteran can expect to pay $45 per month for a maximum coverage amount of $500,000 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 stay the same for the entire term. Below is a comparison of monthly rates based on age at the time of application.
VGLI, $500,000 coverage amount
$500,000 coverage amount, 20-year term
A private term life policy can cost less than a VGLI policy 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.