Insurance plan offers expanded coverage for traumatic injuries
WASHINGTON — Starting this month, servicemembers will receive cash payouts for traumatic injuries in the line of duty as part of a new insurance program.
For $1 a month, all troops will be enrolled in Traumatic Servicemembers Group Life Insurance, or TSGLI, benefits and will be eligible for up to $100,000 for injuries like the loss of a limb, loss of sight and severe burns.
The new insurance coverage also will be retroactively applied to any troops who suffered injuries from combat operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, providing them with payouts later this month.
Stephen Wurtz, the deputy assistant director for insurance at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said anyone enrolled in the traditional SGLI plan will be automatically enrolled in the TSGLI. Those who have opted out of SGLI coverage will not be able to receive the new benefit.
Starting Dec. 1, any troops, including guardsmen and reservists, wounded while serving on active duty became eligible for the payouts. Wurtz said the amount depends on the severity of the injury, and not any outside financial factors.
Injuries covered under the policy include:
loss of a limb, hand or foot;loss of sight or hearing;third-degree burns to the face or to 30 percent of the body;paralysis;brain injuries or coma.Unlike the SGLI coverage, the new policy does not apply to injuries sustained by troops’ families. Eligible troops should see their first $1 payment taken out of their December paychecks.
Wurtz said forms for future claims and retroactive payments will be available online at the VA insurance site and through the service’s chain of command.
In addition, defense officials are working to locate already-wounded servicemembers who are eligible for the retroactive payments. He expects the first payments to be made by the end of the month.
“They know there are people at Walter Reed right now who qualify,” Wurtz said. “They’re working to identify them and help them.”
Congress approved the creation of the new insurance coverage earlier this year, in response to requests from veterans groups and injured troops.
Wurtz said the $1 premium reflects the costs for comparable civilian coverage, but the money collected is not expected cover the full costs of the program. Congress mandated the additional funds come from the Defense Department’s budget.
For more information, visit www.insurance.va.gov.