WASHINGTON – Every day, people across America die unexpectedly, and that includes military personnel.
When this occurs, the Army wants to be sure each Soldier’s wishes are carried out appropriately, and keeping beneficiary documents up-to-date will help it happen.
Two documents are very important in the case of a Soldier’s death – the SGLV Form 8286, Service Members’ Group Life Insurance Election and Certificate, and DD Form 93, Record of Emergency Data.
Soldiers use the SGLV 8286 to designate their desired coverage amounts, as well as their designated primary (principle) and secondary (contingent) beneficiaries. When Soldiers join the service, they are automatically enrolled in the SGLI program with coverage of $400,000. At any time, they may choose to decline the coverage entirely or choose to decrease the coverage amount in increments of $50,000.
The DD 93 is used to designate beneficiaries for certain benefits and provide the Soldier’s command with the names and addresses of the people he or she desires to be notified in case of emergency or death.
One of the benefits Soldiers designate via the DD 93 is the Death Gratuity Program beneficiary. Separate from SGLI, the death gratuity provides for a special tax-free payment of $100,000 to eligible survivors (or designated beneficiaries) of members of the armed forces who die while on active duty or while serving in certain reserve statuses. The purpose of the death gratuity is to provide immediate cash payment to assist the service member’s survivors in order to meet their financial needs during the period immediately following the member's death.
The DD 93 is also a guide for disposition of the service member's pay and allowances if captured, missing or interned.
Soldiers are typically required to update/certify their SGLI during in- and out-processing to a unit, and/or at least once a year at their duty station. It also is very important that Soldiers review and update their SGLIs and DD 93s whenever a life event occurs such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, death of a beneficiary or a change in a beneficiary’s address.
“Soldiers need to pay attention to this,” emphasized Sgt. Maj. Clifton Brown, Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operation Division SGM under Human Resources Command. “For example, there have been cases where a Soldier failed to update their SGLI or DD93 after a divorce, and financial benefits legally went to the now ex-spouse.”
Soldiers also should be aware that the SGLI and DD 93 benefits are different than personal assets. For example, the disposition of personal assets is often directed within a last will and testament. However, SGLI and DD 93 benefits are not personal assets, and the Soldier’s beneficiary elections on these documents take precedence over what a will might attempt to direct with respect to these specific benefits.
Soldiers may update their SGLI forms at any time. This may be accomplished online through the Self-service Online Enrollment System, www.dmdc.osd.mil/milconnect. The SOES is the preferred method to process SGLI coverage for all Army components. It is the Soldiers’ responsibility to keep their SGLIs up-to-date within SOES and any legal documents accessible.
Beneficiaries for SGLI may include any person, firm, corporation or legal entity, including charitable organizations. If a Soldier elects a trustee or person(s) under a will, those documents need to be established and must be accessible by the beneficiary at that time of the election.
Whenever a Soldier designates a person other than the spouse or children to receive all, or a portion of, the SGLI, the Defense Manpower Data Center will attempt to notify the Soldier's spouse in writing at the last known address on record within the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. The receipt or non-receipt of this letter does not change the Soldier’s designation.
Issues may occur when Soldiers decrease their insurance coverage and then later decide to change back to a higher amount. Soldiers can return the coverage to a higher amount, but will need to complete the required medical questions. If the Soldier answers “yes” to any of the questions, they are required by the Office of SGLI to return a physician statement.
Once SGLI changes are approved, the Soldier needs to verify that the correct premiums are drafted from their pay. Soldiers can do this by looking at the “Deductions” column and the “Remarks” section at the bottom of their leave and earnings statement.
To update the DD Form 93, Soldiers must visit their unit S-1 or human resources/personnel section.
Completed SGLI and DD 93 forms reside in the Soldiers personnel file within the Interactive Personnel Records Management System. It is from iPERMS that HRC’s Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operation Division obtains the Soldier’s most current documentation in order to begin processing benefits following a reported death.
Leaders must provide Soldiers the opportunity to update their records. Unit human resources specialists must fully understand casualty documents and be able to articulate the potential problems that some election decisions might create. They also need to be able to provide the assistance necessary so that the Soldier's intent is captured, and the ramifications of designations are understood.