Oversight leaves troops in combat zones with added SGLI premium for October
WASHINGTON — Troops serving in combat zones could see their paychecks dip slightly in October because of a legislative snafu involving the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance program.
But Steve Burghardt, spokesman for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, said the insurance issues should amount to a temporary problem on some troops’ pay stubs, but they should not cause any serious coverage or financial issues.
Most servicemembers in combat zones will see $9.75 more in insurance premium costs deducted from their October paychecks than what they have been paying, he said. The confusion won’t affect troops outside combat zones.
At issue is a series of SGLI changes approved by Congress in the spring as part of a supplemental budget request. At that time, lawmakers agreed to pay premiums for the first $150,000 of SGLI coverage.
The subsidy — which amounted to $9.75 a month — was designed to provide a level of financial protection for those troops. Even servicemembers who had declined to participate in the SGLI offerings were given $150,000 of coverage free of charge.
But that subsidy is set to expire on Oct. 1, the end of fiscal 2005. The fiscal 2006 Defense Appropriations bill would extend it past that date, but discussions on that measure have been delayed on Capitol Hill.
The House and Senate likely won’t reach a final compromise until mid- to late-October, leaving a gap in the program.
Both chambers rushed this week to pass separate legislation keeping other SGLI changes in place — including a new $400,000 maximum in coverage — but that emergency bill omitted the combat zone subsidy.
The 2006 Defense appropriations bill as written now would make that coverage retroactive to Oct. 1, meaning troops will have that extra life insurance regardless when the measure finally becomes law.
But Burghardt said that likely won’t be in place before the October pay period calculations are complete, resulting in the unexpected charge.
Military pay officials have been discussing how to deal with the problem and will likely work out a refund for that $9.75 charge in November.
Servicemembers pay 6.5 cents a month for $1,000 of coverage in the SGLI program, and those signed up for the maximum $400,000 policy in pay $26 a month for the coverage.