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Veterans to see slight life insurance increase

PREVIEW Columnist

The Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program will adjust its monthly premium rate from 6.5 cents per $1,000 back to the 2006 rate of seven cents per $1,000 of insurance — a modest increase to ensure the SGLI program remains in a strong financial position.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continues to place the interests of service members first and foremost by keeping SGLI premiums as low as possible while also maintaining the necessary reserve levels to ensure funds are available to pay claims to service members’ beneficiaries. Since the start of the SGLI program in 1965, monthly premiums have decreased from 20 cents per $1,000 to the current 6.5 cents per $1,000. There have been periodic increases and decreases, but over the past 30 years, premiums have fluctuated only 2.5 cents per $1,000 of insurance.

In July 2008, VA lowered the monthly premium rate for basic SGLI from seven cents per $1,000 of insurance to 6.5 cents per $1,000 of insurance to reduce excess reserve funds in the program. Insurance companies hold reserve funds to ensure they can pay future claims. It is common practice in the group insurance industry to adjust premium rates as reserve funds increase and decrease, which typically happens when there are changes in the economy and/or changes in the number of death claims.

In order for the program to remain in good financial condition, it is now necessary to increase the premium rate by half a cent per $1,000 of insurance. Since 2008, as a result of the half-cent reduction and decreases in interest rates, reserve funds have decreased.

VA also uses actuaries, individuals who deal with financial impact of risk, to conduct program experience studies when evaluating and adjusting reserve assumptions; and each year, an independent auditor verifies the accuracy of their reserve calculations.

For a service member with the maximum $400,000 of life insurance, this change will mean an increase of two dollars per month.

The new premium rate will take effect on July 1. Individual ready reserve members who are drilling for points toward retirement or who do not receive pay for other reasons will be billed by their branch of service for the higher premium beginning in July 2014. For information on the new rates, visit http://benefits.va.gov/insurance/sgli.asp.

Phoenix VA

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki made the following statement on the allegations regarding the Phoenix VA Health Care System:

“We take these allegations very seriously. Based on the request of the independent VA Office of Inspector General, in view of the gravity of the allegations and in the interest of the Inspector General’s ability to conduct a thorough and timely review of the Phoenix VA Health Care System (PVAHCS), I have directed that PVAHCS Director Sharon Helman, PVAHCS Associate Director Lance Robinson, and a third PVAHCS employee be placed on administrative leave until further notice.

“Providing veterans the quality care and benefits they have earned through their service is our only mission at the Department of Veterans Affairs. We care deeply for every veteran we are privileged to serve.

“We believe it is important to allow an independent, objective review to proceed. These allegations, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and if the Inspector General’s investigation substantiates these claims, swift and appropriate action will be taken.

“Veterans deserve to have full faith in their VA health care. I appreciate the continued hard work and dedication of our employees and of the community stakeholders we work with every day in our service to veterans.”

Further information 

For further information on VA benefits, call or stop by the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office, located at the Senior Center in the Ross Aragon Community Center on Hot Springs Boulevard.

The best way to contact me is to set up an appointment at home or in the office so I can schedule a specific time in order to answer and assist each veteran in Archuleta County.

I will be out of the office on the following days for regularly scheduled meetings:

• Vets4Vets: Tuesday mornings, 9 a.m.-noon.

• Arboles Community Center, first and third Thursdays. Back around 2 p.m.

• Pagosa Outreach Connection, 8:30-10 a.m. every Thursday.

• Home visits/Pine Ridge outreach, second and fourth Thursdays, back at 2 p.m.

The office number is 264-4013, fax number is 264-4014, cell number is 946-3590 and email is raytaylor@archuletacounty.org. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Bring your DD Form 214 (Discharge) for completing applications to VA programs or benefits for which the veteran may be entitled to, and a copy for filing in the Archuleta County VSO office. If the office is closed, I am out assisting veterans; leave me a message and phone number to contact you.

Veterans’ groups

The following veterans’ groups meet in Pagosa Springs:

• American Legion Post 108: second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

• American Legion Post 108 Ladies Auxiliary: second Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m., 287 Hermosa St.

• Veterans for Veterans: every Tuesday at 10 a.m., Quality Resort.

• Women’s Group of Spouses of Veterans: every other Monday at 6 p.m., St. Patrick’s Episcopal Parish Hall, 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Charlotte: 731-1025.

• Point Man Ministries’ Breakfast for Veterans: 8:30 a.m. each Tuesday at Buffalo Inn, 164 N. Pagosa Blvd. Contact Vincent: 731-2769, vfortunato777@gmail.com.

Important numbers

• 799-VETS, www.Vets4VetsPSCO.org.

• Durango VA Outpatient Clinic: 247-2214.

• Farmington VA Center: (505) 327-9684.

• The Veterans Crisis Line offers free, confidential support to veterans in crisis, as well as their family and friends 24/7/365. Call (800) 273-8255, chat online or text 838255.

This story was posted on May 9, 2014.