Life insurance for military members

Service members qualify for military group life insurance and can get private life insurance, depending on duties and station of duty for those with orders to deploy.

Rebecca Shoenthal author photoAmanda Shih author photo

By

Rebecca Shoenthal

Rebecca Shoenthal

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Rebecca Shoenthal is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius. Her insights about life insurance and finance have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, The Balance, HerMoney, SBLI, and John Hancock.

&Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius, where she covered life insurance and disability insurance. Her expertise has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.

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The high risk involved in military service makes a life insurance policy especially important for active duty service members. You can get up to $400,000 in coverage through Veterans Affairs with Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI), though that isn’t enough coverage for every family. 

However, being an active service member doesn’t automatically disqualify you from getting private life insurance in most cases. Private life insurance providers will use your deployment status, duties, station of duty, and physical location to evaluate your application. Here’s how to find the best life insurance plan to protect your family. 

Military-provided Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance 

Full-time service members can enroll in SGLI, which offers coverage in increments of $50,000 up to the $400,000 maximum. [1] It also includes traumatic injury protection so military members receive a payment if they experience amputations, paraplegia, and blindness.

You can make changes to your policy, including benefit amount and beneficiaries, or opt out of coverage as needed. You also have the option to continue your SGLI or convert your coverage into a civilian policy after you’re discharged.

Like other group life insurance plans, SGLI plans might not offer enough life insurance coverage for your family, depending on your income, debt, and expenses. We recommend buying private life insurance to fill any coverage gaps.

→ Figure out how much life insurance you need

How much does SGLI cost?

SGLI premiums are taken out of your pay and base premiums are $0.06 per $1,000 of coverage you purchase, plus $1 per month for traumatic injury protection. If you bought the maximum amount of coverage, you’d pay $25 per month for a $400,000 death benefit

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Private life insurance for military members

There are a few additional considerations for active military members who want to buy private life insurance. Where you’re stationed will matter — you need to be in the U.S. to apply for and purchase a U.S. life insurance policy — as will your duties and rank.

Some insurers also place additional restrictions on policies sold to military members. For example, some consider your SGLI coverage when determining how much private life insurance you can buy while others won’t factor that amount in at all.

Many of Policygenius’ life insurance partners do 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. Beneficiaries of military members will still get death benefits in this case.

Primary questions life insurance companies ask military personnel

Military personnel applying for life insurance need to be aware of knockout criteria — circumstances that could automatically disqualify them from coverage. The two primary knockout questions you can expect from an insurer are:

  1. Do you have orders for deployment? If you’re deploying to a country with a State Department-issued warning or can’t disclose the location your application is more likely to be declined. If you’re deploying to a country not on that list you’ll be able to continue the application process.

  2. What is your job title, and can you describe your job duties? If you’ll be doing office work, recruiting, or other non-life-threatening work, you’ll likely have no problems applying for a policy. But if you’re likely to see combat or are a member of Special Forces, Rangers, SEALS, Marine Force Recon, Marine Raiders, Delta Force, Air Force Pararescue, or a similar unit, you could be declined a private policy.

You won’t be automatically approved if you clear the knockout criteria. To get covered, you still need to go through the full application process, and your rates and coverage limits will depend on your rank and underwriting outcome.

How military rank affects your life insurance coverage

Some insurance companies have specific coverage limits based on your rank, regardless of military branch. The exact coverage limits vary by provider. 

Here’s an example of coverage limits by military pay grade, with those with enlisted status having lower limits and commissioned officers having the highest:

  • $250,000 for pay grades E1 to E5

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

  • $1,000,000 for pay grades O-1 to O-10

The higher the risk that you’ll die while covered by your life insurance policy, the more expensive your premiums will be and the more likely you might be declined for coverage. High-ranking officials are considered lower risk because they’re less likely to see the same sort of combat dangers as lower-ranking service members. 

However, some insurers will follow the same income guidelines they apply to civilians. These guidelines allow you to buy up to a certain multiple of your income, depending on your age, e.g., up to 25 times your income under age 40.

Insurers will apply civilian income guidelines to applications from Reserve or Guard members who are not alerted or mobilized. As mentioned above, Special Forces, Rangers, SEALS, Marine Force Recon, Marine Raiders, Delta Force, Air Force Pararescue, and other similar units are more likely to be declined even if they don’t have active deployment orders. 

Flat extras for pilots and aviation crew members

Most pilots get higher life insurance rates due to the occupational hazards involved. Military pilots and crew members are no different and will be required to pay a flat extra fee fee, ranging from $2 to $12 per $1,000 of coverage. Exact amounts vary by insurer, job duties, and what type of aircraft and missions being flown. 

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

Non-frontline aviation crew members, including flight nurses and instructors, may get flat extras too, but are unlikely to be charged more than $2 per $1,000 of coverage.

Life insurance for military spouses

Spouses of military personnel who are not service members 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 policy in most cases. The military sponsors Family Servicemembers' Group Life insurance (FSGLI) policies for spouses and dependent children of those covered with SGLI policies. Spouses should compare FSGLI rates with those from private insurers.

Getting private 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. Working with an independent broker like Policygenius can be particularly helpful when comparing different private insurance companies.

Frequently asked questions

Does the military provide life insurance?

Full-time service members are eligible for Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) with the military. Coverage amounts range from $50,000 to $400,000.

How much does military life insurance cost?

The cost of SGLI depends on the amount of coverage you need, but monthly premiums start at $0.06 per $1,000 of coverage. Private life insurance rates are set on an individual basis.

Can military service members get private life insurance?

Yes, you can get life insurance in addition to any SGLI coverage you have. Your rates and eligibility depend on your rank, duties, and deployment, as well as your health, age, and lifestyle.

References

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  1. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

    (VA). "

    Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)

    ." Accessed January 21, 2022.

Authors

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Rebecca Shoenthal

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

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Rebecca Shoenthal is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius. Her insights about life insurance and finance have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, The Balance, HerMoney, SBLI, and John Hancock.

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

gray twitter icon linkgray linkedin icon link

Amanda Shih is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius, where she covered life insurance and disability insurance. Her expertise has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.

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