WASHINGTON -- Compensation for the survivors of servicemembers who die in combat zones and insurance coverage for servicemembers will both increase significantly this year, a military pay official said today.
An increase in death gratuity benefits from $12,500 to $100,000 already has taken effect, and Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance maximum coverage will increase to $400,000 starting Sept. 1, said Air Force Col. Virginia Penrod, director of military compensation.
The increase in death benefits took effect May 11 and is dated retroactively to Oct. 7, 2001, Penrod said. This means that survivors of servicemembers who died between Oct. 7, 2001, and May 11, 2005, will receive the increased benefits, as will survivors of servicemembers who die from May 11 on, she said.
The increased benefits are for survivors of servicemembers who die in combat zones, combat operations and combat-related situations, she said. Combat-related situations can include airborne duty, combat training, demolition duty and training exercises, among other things, she said. A policy designating combat areas and situations was given to the individual services in June, and each service is now reviewing cases. Payments already have begun, but the process of identifying and paying all eligible survivors could take several months, she said.
When the increase in SGLI coverage takes effect Sept. 1, it also will be dated retroactively to Oct. 7, 2001, she said. Survivors of servicemembers who died in a combat zone, combat operations or combat-related situations between the October date and Sept. 1 will receive $150,000 in transitional insurance, which will bring them to the $400,000 level, she said.
In addition to the increased coverage, DoD will pay premiums of $150,000 for servicemembers involved in combat operations or deployed to a combat zone, Penrod said.
The increase of these two benefits came about as a result of a 2004 study evaluating the adequacy of death benefits for servicemembers, she said. The study found that benefits were adequate, but didn't recognize the unique sacrifice made by servicemembers who die in combat situations, she said.
"There was concern that we weren't recognizing direct sacrifice of life in service to our nation," she said. "That's how the increase was made for those particular situations."