Group insurance has paid out $103M to severely wounded
March 12, 2006
WASHINGTON — More than 1,600 severely wounded servicemembers have received cash payouts through the new Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance program in its first three months, according to program officials.
The program, launched in December, allows servicemembers to pay $1 a month for insurance in cases of severe wounds such as the loss of a limb, loss of sight or extensive burns. Payouts range from $25,000 to $100,000.
The payouts so far total more than $103 million and include 66 troops who have been injured since Dec. 1 and already received their cash. Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs said they’re pleased with the quick turnaround thus far.
“That was really the intent of the law,” said Stephen Wurtz, the deputy assistant director for insurance at the department. “The idea was to get them a quick infusion of cash over this transitional period, to help them cover expenses. So far, we’re very gratified that it’s working that way.”
When Congress approved the coverage, they made all troops on active duty eligible for the protection, but also included provisions to retroactively pay servicemembers who had been injured in Iraq and Afghanistan since combat operations started there.
So far, 1,543 troops have received the retroactive payments, Wurtz said. Defense officials estimate about 5,000 troops total are eligible under those guidelines.
Wurtz said they also anticipate about 900 new payouts each year.
Last week, during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, Chairman Larry Craig, R-Idaho, told members of the Paralyzed Veterans of America he is pleased with the results thus far. Craig had sponsored the bill creating the new insurance program last year.
“These are young men and women with amputations, severe burns, total blindness, total deafness, paralysis and a host of other disabilities sustained in defense of America,” he said.
“Going forward, the ‘wounded warrior’ insurance will help close the gap in financial help these heroes need during their convalescence.”
The $1 premium is not expected to cover all costs associated with the new insurance program, but Congress has mandated any additional expenses come from the Defense Department budget, not from additional rate increases.