VA Life Insurance Review

Low-cost life insurance coverage for active and retired servicemembers

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Our Take

As a military servicemember, you are able to purchase life insurance coverage from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for yourself or even your family, both while you’re active and after you retire. There are many different policies that you may be eligible to purchase, all of which are underwritten by Prudential, though you may be able to get better rates and policy terms elsewhere.

  • Pros & Cons
  • Key Takeaways
  • Company Overview
Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Offered in all 50 states

  • Premiums are the same regardless of health or medical history

  • Riders are included at no charge

  • No maximum age for coverage

Cons
  • Available exclusively to military members

  • Only two riders offered

  • Accelerated benefits require a terminally ill prognosis of nine months or less

  • No cash value or dividends

Key Takeaways
  • Coverage is offered to eligible servicemembers and their families, both while they’re active and after retirement.
  • Policies are term renewable, so premiums will increase with age.
  • Only two riders are available, though both are included at no additional charge.
  • Depending on the type of policy you choose, coverage is capped at $400,000.
Company Overview

The Department of Veterans Affairs, also known as the VA, offers a variety of services to active and retired military members and their families. The life insurance coverage offered by the VA today was established in 1965 and includes policies for active members, retired members, disabled members, and eligible family members. 

Trusted carrier Prudential is contracted to underwrite VA life insurance policies. These policies are different from the civilian coverage options that Prudential offers elsewhere.

Geographical Restrictions

VA life insurance is offered in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.

  • Year Founded 1965
  • Kinds of Plans Term life
  • Number of Plans 3
  • Payment Plan Options Monthly
  • Customer Service Email (osgli.osgli@prudential.com) or telephone (1-800-419-1473)
  • Official Website www.va.gov

VA Life is not one of our top-rated life insurance companies. You can review our list of the best life insurance companies for what we think are better options.

Pros Explained

  • Offered in all 50 states: Life insurance coverage through the VA can be purchased in all states plus Washington, D.C.
  • Premiums are the same regardless of health or medical history: VA life insurance policy premiums are based on standard premium charts according to age. While you may still need to prove insurability initially, your actual premiums will only be determined by your age and coverage limits.
  • Riders are included at no charge: VA life insurance policies include accelerated death benefits and a waiver of premium rider automatically, at no additional cost.
  • No maximum age for coverage: VGLI policies (purchased once you retire from service) are term renewable coverage and can be held for as long as you pay premiums, though the cost will increase according to your age.

Cons Explained

  • Available exclusively to military members: VA life insurance is only available to those who are active duty, reserve, or retired military, as well as certain volunteers, members, cadets, and their families. Civilians cannot purchase coverage.
  • Only two riders offered: Options to customize your policy are limited with just two riders.
  • Accelerated benefits require a terminally ill prognosis of nine months or less: In order to take advantage of accelerated benefits, you are required to have a terminal illness diagnosis and be given nine months or less to live. Many other insurance carriers allow for diagnoses of 12 to 24 months.
  • No cash value or dividends: None of the VA life insurance policies builds cash value, nor do they pay out dividends to policyholders.

Available Plans

The VA offers a few different life insurance plan options, depending on whether you’re active duty, have been injured while in active service, or if you’re looking for life insurance as a retired veteran. You may also be able to purchase coverage for your family members with one of these plans.

Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)

The servicemembers’ group life insurance (SGLI) policy is designed for active servicemembers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Marines. It is also available to certain reserve members, cadets, NOAA or USPHS commissioned members, or Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) volunteers. The total coverage limit is $400,000, which can be purchased in $50,000 increments, with a base premium rate of $0.06 per $1,000 in coverage paid monthly.

SGLI coverage ends 120 days after you leave the military, though disabled members can receive a free two-year extension of coverage if they meet certain requirements. Reserve members can also get part-time SGLI coverage. 

Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)

The spouse and dependent children of a servicemember can get life insurance coverage through the family servicemembers’ group life insurance (FSGLI) policy. This coverage is only available if the servicemember is on active duty orders or is a reserve member of the National Guard or Ready Reserve, and if they already have SGLI coverage.

Dependent child coverage is free with FSGLI and provides $10,000 in life insurance protection per child. Spouses can purchase up to $100,000 in life insurance, though this can’t exceed the servicemember’s SGLI coverage limit.

FSGLI premiums are tiered according to age, and range from $0.045 to $0.45 per $1,000 in coverage. 

Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI)

After you leave military service, you may be eligible for continued coverage under the veterans’ group life insurance (VGLI) plan. In order to get VGLI, you’ll need to apply within one year and 120 days from the date that you left the military. In some cases, you can also apply for VGLI coverage if you’re within one year and 120 days of retirement or military separation. 

You’re only eligible to buy as much VGLI coverage as you had under an SGLI plan, with limits ranging from $10,000 to $400,000. You’re also able to increase your coverage by $25,000 every five years until you reach the $400,000 maximum, through age 60. If you sign up for VGLI within 240 days of leaving the military, no proof of insurability is required. If you apply after 240 days, though, you will need to submit evidence of your good health.

VGLI premiums are tiered by age and range from $0.07 to $0.45 per $1,000 in coverage. You can also convert your VGLI coverage into a civilian whole life policy at any time, through a partner carrier, without needing to provide proof of insurability. 

When retiring and moving from an SGLI to a VGLI policy, you’ll only be able to buy as much VGLI coverage as you already had in SGLI coverage. You’re able to increase your coverage every five years, however.

Available Riders

Each of the riders offered on VA life insurance policies is automatically included at no additional charge. 

Waiver of Premiums

If you have VA life insurance coverage and become totally disabled, you may be able to get a waiver of premiums that allows you to keep your coverage without needing to pay monthly premiums. In some cases, this can be retroactively dated back, up to a year.

Accelerated Benefits

With the accelerated benefits rider, you can access up to 50% of your VA policy’s death benefit (in $5,000 increments), if you are terminally ill with nine months or less to live. Any funds withdrawn through the accelerated benefits rider will be subtracted from the policy’s overall death benefit.

Customer Service

If you are interested in purchasing VA life insurance as a military member, you can do so through your service branch’s personnel office. To make changes to your policy—such as adding more coverage or changing your beneficiary—you’ll need to do so through the SGLI Online Enrollment System (SOES) on milConnect. 

If you have additional questions, want to convert your coverage, or need to file a claim, you can contact the Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (OSGLI) at 1-800-419-1473. You can also email the Prudential Insurance Company with your questions at osgli.osgli@prudential.com.

Complaint Index

Every year, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) issues a complaint index to insurance carriers. This complaint index represents a carrier’s performance in terms of consumer complaints throughout the year based on market share and company size.

The average complaint index is adjusted to 1.00 for each carrier; an index above 1.0 means that the company received more complaints than expected, while an index below 1.0 means fewer complaints than expected were received for that year.

VA life insurance policies are underwritten by a commercial life insurance carrier, Prudential. Looking at Prudential’s group life insurance policies, we see that the company received a complaint index of 1.15 in 2020, which represents 24 total complaints. In 2019, the company’s complaint index was 0.74 and in 2018, they received an index of 0.72.

Third-Party Ratings

Third-party ratings are a great way to gauge how a company performs as a whole and also analyze things like consumer satisfaction and financial stability. One of the most trusted third-party scores is the financial strength rating offered by AM Best, which demonstrates confidence in a carrier to remain stable and financially solvent in the future. 

Prudential, which underwrites VA life insurance policies, currently holds an A+ (Superior) AM Best financial strength rating. This is the second-highest rating offered and allows policyholders the peace of mind that the company will be around and able to pay benefits when needed.

Another trusted rating is from J.D. Power, in the form of the annual U.S. Life Insurance Study. This study looks at factors such as product availability, customer satisfaction, and pricing to create its ranked lists. In the 2020 study, Prudential ranked 11th out of 23 named carriers, with a satisfaction index rating of 759 (the industry average was 763).

Cancellation Policy

You are able to decline VA life insurance coverage or cancel an existing policy at any time. Since VA life insurance policies are term renewable, they do not build cash value. This means that you don’t have to worry about paying a surrender fee, but you also won’t get a refund on any premiums paid if you cancel your coverage.

Price

The price of life insurance coverage through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is based on the policy type and the insured’s age. These are group policies, and factors like gender or medical history do not impact the cost.

SGLI premiums have a monthly base rate of $0.06 per $1,000 in coverage, and FSGLI policies start at $0.045 per $1,000 in coverage, regardless of age. VGLI premiums range from the low end of $0.07 per $1,000 in coverage (for ages 29 and below) to as high as $4.50 per $1,000 in coverage (for ages 80 and over).

Life insurance coverage through the VA is considered term renewable, so premiums can and will increase as you get older. If you’re looking to lock in level premiums, consider buying a civilian term policy or even whole life coverage.

Competition

Prudential, which underwrites the VA life insurance policies, has already earned our overall best life insurance company title. To help you get a better idea of how this carrier performs compared to its competitors, though, we have put Prudential up against New York Life, another of our top picks. 

Though Prudential offers a variety of civilian policies, its VA life insurance policies only offer renewable term coverage to a specific group of military members and their families. New York Life, on the other hand, offers term, whole, and universal life options. New York Life also offers many more policy riders than VA life insurance policies, though the VA riders are included at no additional cost.

Lastly, VA life insurance policies are capped out at $400,000 in coverage for the primary servicemember, and $100,000 for spouses. New York Life policies offer up to $1 million in coverage.

If you are an eligible servicemember, VA life insurance coverage can be an affordable and convenient option for buying coverage through the workplace, without things like gender or medical history impacting premiums. If you need more than $400,000 in coverage, though, or want to lock in level premiums, New York Life is the better option.

  Prudential New York Life
Market Share Fifth-largest in U.S., 4.6% Fourth-largest in the U.S., 4.6%
Number of Plans  11  10 
Dividends for 2020  Not applicable  Not applicable 
Service Method  Financial professionals, online  Agents 
AM Best Rating  A+  A++ 
Price Rank  About average  Better than most 
Complaints Trend  1.15 Good 0.21 Excellent 
Final Verdict

If you are an eligible servicemember, VA life insurance coverage can be an easy and affordable way to get term life insurance coverage, with premiums based only on age, policy type, and level of coverage. Since policies are term renewable, premiums can go up annually, and coverage may not be as competitively priced as you age.

Methodology

In order to provide readers with the most accurate and helpful reviews of insurance carriers, we employ a comprehensive methodology. This includes looking at factors such as carrier availability, ease of buying, coverage limits, and pricing. We also consider the carrier’s reputation and third-party ratings.

Article Sources

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  1. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "Complaint Index." Accessed June 1, 2021. 

  2. J.D. Power. "2020 U.S. Life Insurance Study." Accessed May 11, 2021.