For many service members, the $400,000 of coverage under the Veterans Affairs Department’s Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance meets their needs.

If you decide you need more life insurance coverage, do some research and comparison shopping on types of insurance in the private insurance market. SGLI ends when you leave the military, so you need to start the research for new insurance coverage early enough to make sure you have options. You can convert to the Veterans’ Group Life Insurance program within a limited period of time, but it pays to shop around.

Our chart is a place to start, offering breakdowns of policies offered by 12 entities, plus SGLI and VGLI options. These companies and organizations offer a variety of policies in addition to those listed here, and there are other companies that offer options, too. But this chart is designed to get you thinking about features you’ll want to compare.

If you want to move from SGLI to VGLI, you must do so within one year and 120 days of your date of separation or retirement. If you apply for coverage within 240 days, you won’t have to answer health questions.

Service members also can convert their SGLI policy to an individual permanent policy (such as whole life) without having to provide proof of good health; it must be done within 120 days of separation from the military, and through a participating company.

The premiums for VGLI increase every five years as you get older. For example, the maximum $400,000 of VGLI at age 30 is $40 a month. At age 60, it’s $432 a month, and if you keep that insurance to age 75, it’s $1,840 a month.

So if you’re leaving the military, it pays to shop around ahead of time so that if you find that you’re turned down for life insurance for some health reason, you’ll still have time to sign up for VGLI. If you find another policy that meets your needs, make sure you have the policy in hand before your deadline for signing up for VGLI coverage.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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