Military Life Insurance and End-of-Life Planning
Some kinds of planning are tougher than others. End-of-life plans aren’t easy to discuss, but making financial plans to deal with the realities of death can bring peace of mind once you get over the initial discomfort of making these arrangements.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has some advice for those facing these decisions. You’ll want to think about how to financially protect your loved ones in the event of your death.
That means making prior arrangements to cover your debts, making vital documents accessible for your survivors, and you’ll want a financial plan to cover your family’s needs going forward.
Make Your Vital Records Accessible to Your Family
Some don’t stop to think about how their surviving family members will be able to claim death benefits, life insurance policies, or other options after they are gone. Does your family know where to find your policies, discharge paperwork, military records, and medical records?
Consider storing them physically in an agreed-upon place and discuss how to digitally reproduce your documents in case they are needed electronically.
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers an option that can help. VA Advance Care Planning (ACP) helps veterans to “clarify their preferences for future health care based on personal values and beliefs.”
When using VA ACP, you have the option to select someone to act as your advocate if you’re unable to do so.
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The Department of Veterans Affairs advises military families to be as proactive as possible with pre-need planning. Review the list below for some of the most crucial types of planning needed to protect your family:
- Make a list of advance directives: VA.gov advises, “Advance Directive is a legal form that helps your doctors and loved ones understand your wishes about medical and mental health care and make decisions about your care, if you are not able to make decisions for yourself.” Don’t let another PCS or TDY happen without an advance directive.
- Choose a Representative to Make Decisions. The VA calls this selecting your Health Care Agent. This person should have the legal authority to make decisions about your end-of-life care and other needs.
- Set Health Care Goals with your healthcare provider, social worker, or caregiver.
- Contingency Planning such as Do Not Resuscitate, Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, and Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. You should have your wishes on these services in writing as well as any planned organ donation.
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers life insurance options “to help Veterans prepare for the future and protect those who matter most.”
These options include Veterans Affairs Life Insurance (VALife) which features “guaranteed acceptance whole life coverage up to $40,000 for Veterans with service-connected disabilities” according to the VA.
Another option, Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI), lets you keep a converted version of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage amount after you leave the military.
Some don’t believe VA life insurance options are enough to fully cover family expenses and choose private life insurance options as an alternative or supplement to VA life insurance.
The costs for such policies will vary; you’ll want to get multiple life insurance quotes to see which provider and policy works best in your circumstances.
Other Options for Surviving Family Members
VA.gov advises, “Eligible dependents of a Veteran who died from a condition related to service or who died in the line of duty may be eligible for survivor benefits, such as Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).”
There are a variety of these VA programs, created to help surviving spouses and dependents make ends meet after the death of a military member or veteran. They include, but may not be limited to the following:
- VA Survivors Pension, providing monthly payments to qualifying spouses and unmarried dependent children of wartime Veterans.
- “Month of Death Benefit” described by VA.gov as “the final monthly payment of any VA compensation or pension benefits the Veteran was receiving.”
- Accrued Benefits or the unpaid benefits the Veteran was due before death.
- VA Burial Allowance to help offset the costs of a Veteran’s burial and funeral costs.
Related: Tips for Buying Life Insurance
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About the author
Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.