More service members leaving the military this year have extra time to apply for Veterans’ Group Life Insurance.

Department of Veterans Affairs officials extended the deadline to include service members leaving the military through Dec. 11. During the pandemic, VA provided more application time to anyone leaving the military from June 11, 2020, through June 11, 2021. This gives troops leaving in the second half of last year the extra time, too.

Here’s how it works, for those whose separation dates are between June 11, 2020, and Dec. 11, 2021:

• To apply for VGLI without a health review to provide proof of good health, service members will have up to 330 days after they separate from the military. That’s an increase of 90 days over the standard period of 240 days.

• To apply with a health review of good health, service members will have up to one year and 210 days after leaving the service. That’s an increase of 90 days over the standard period of one year and 120 days.

The VA recently published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the Dec. 11 extension to help service members directly or indirectly affected by the pandemic to purchase VGLI. The extension is intended to ease some of the financial consequences of the pandemic for former service members, “especially those with disabilities incurred while in service, since many of these former members would otherwise not qualify for a private commercial plan of insurance due to such disabilities,” the notice states. And some troops may have challenges with visiting their health care provider to get their medical records, according to the VA.

The VGLI coverage is an option for those who have Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance coverage, enabling them to convert their existing SGLI coverage to VGLI coverage. Both programs are administered by the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance, and are supervised by the VA.

VGLI coverage is more expensive than SGLI coverage, and increases in cost every five years up to age 80. For example, $400,000 worth of SGLI coverage costs the same — $25 a month — regardless of age. VGLI coverage of $400,000 at age 30 costs $36 a month, and at age 40 costs $64 a month. But policies can be purchased in increments of $10,000 up to $400,000. That $10,000 policy would cost $1.60 a month for a 40-year-old.

Experts advise service members to shop around for life insurance and have a policy in hand well before their VGLI application deadline so they can make sure they’ve got insurance coverage if there are health conditions that might make them ineligible for commercial life insurance 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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