Veterans and those still serving are often entitled to privileges and discounts on much of their insurance needs. However, they can also face special challenges. 

Knowing how to navigate your way through these can maximize the protection you get when insuring the things you care about while minimizing the costs.

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Whether you're deployed or have completed your service, you need auto, home, life and health insurance. This comprehensive guide can help you and your family make an informed decision and find the right coverage. Here are insurance tips for veterans and military personnel. 

Auto insurance for veterans and military personnel

Car insurance coverage options include:

  • Liability: Required by nearly every state, this coverage provides bodily injury liability and property damage liability protection to cover harm or damage to other motorists if you get into an accident.

  • Collision/Comprehensive: Provides coverage for damage or bodily injury to you and your car, along with other motorists.

  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist: Covers bodily injury or damage to you and your car if the driver is uninsured and is responsible for the accident.

  • Medical payments and personal injury protection (PIP): This type of insurance, which isn't required in all states, provides coverage for medical expenses, loss of income and other designated costs for injuries sustained in an accident, regardless of who’s at fault.

Several auto insurers offer military personnel discounts. Geico, for example, provides an up to 15% discount for active duty and retired military personnel and members of the National Guard or Reserves. The company also gives an emergency deployment discount for service members who are deployed to Department of Defense-designated dangerous areas. 

In addition, members of military-affiliated organizations can receive auto discounts. These groups include the Association of the United States Army and the Navy League of the United States. 

USAA, which provides insurance and other financial services for nearly 13 million current and former service members, offers benefits such as safe driving and multi-vehicle discounts and accident forgiveness. 

Lynne McChristian, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute, says service members should weigh several factors when choosing an insurer. Don’t just compare by price.  

"Some insurers specialize in insuring veterans, and they should always be included on the shopping list. These insurers understand the complexities of military life and they also understand that customer service is important to those dedicated to military service," she says. "Additionally, many insurers offer military discounts. Yet, insurance considerations should not be based on price alone. You will want to look into the customer satisfaction ratings and how well the company is rated for financial stability."

Auto insurance discounts for veterans and military personnel

Here’s a sampling of insurers that offer auto discounts to veterans and military personnel. 

Auto insurance options if you're deployed

Your coverage needs will likely change if you're deployed. McChristian says going without insurance isn't the wisest idea.

"Leaving a car uninsured leaves it vulnerable to loss. A car can still be damaged in storage," she says. "So, it may be wise to maintain comprehensive coverage, but drop the types of coverage related to cars being on the road, such as liability and collision coverage."

Here are six options to consider:

OptionWhen it might make sense

Keep your current policy

It’s probably best to keep your coverage if you have a spouse or other family members that will drive the vehicle while you're deployed. Just make sure these additional drivers are on your policy.

Suspend your policy

Consider suspending your policy if you're the only driver of your vehicle. Doing this will mean you'll no longer have to pay the monthly premium. However, you won't have coverage during this time. The advantage of this approach is that you can avoid coverage gaps that often lead to higher rates when you cancel a policy. However, not everyone can go this route. Drivers with car loans usually aren't eligible.

Negotiate lower premiums

Service members can request to lower their monthly premiums while they're deployed. Ryan Guina, a military veteran and founder of The Military Wallet, a personal finance and benefits website for service members, says this helps to "avoid a lapse of coverage for the driver, and often costs much less than leaving their policy in place without any changes. The service member should ensure no one will be driving the car if they do this, and they should reinstate their insurance prior to returning home," Guina says.

Get storage insurance

Suspending your policy doesn't provide coverage in case of fire, vandalism, tree damage or other non-accident related situations. These issues could get coverage if you have "storage insurance.” The coverage protects you if you won’t use your car for an extended period. This can reduce out-of-pocket expenses if something happens to your vehicle while you're deployed. If you have a car loan, your lender may require this to protect the vehicle while you're away.

Remove your name from the policy

If other drivers are on your policy, you can remove your name from the policy if it will reduce your premium. For example, if your spouse has a better driving record and better credit, which likely affect your premium, it may be best to leave him or her on the policy.

Cancel your policy:

This is only the best option if you can no longer afford coverage. Before you cancel, check with your insurer to see how coverage gaps might affect your premiums if you sign up for a new policy when you return.

Disabled veterans and auto insurance

Like their fellow service members, disabled veterans may qualify for auto insurance discounts.

Disability compensation may become your main income if you experience an illness or injury as a result of your military service and can’t resume work. For veterans in this situation, auto insurance discounts are even more important. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers an adaptive equipment grant and a one-time payment to help service members buy a specially-equipped vehicle. To see if you qualify for these benefits, you'll need to fill out an application.

It's also important to note that federal law prohibits insurers from denying coverage or charging a higher rate to people with disabilities. However, some insurers may indirectly consider this during the underwriting process as a part of determining your risk. Still, you should disclose your disability to an insurer when you apply for coverage. The insurance company may request a doctor’s letter that confirms you're able to drive, but if you have this medical clearance, there shouldn't be a problem with getting a policy.

Just keep in mind that if you have an adaptive vehicle, you may need to add a custom parts and equipment endorsement to your policy. This endorsement, which is only available if you have comprehensive or collision coverage, will reduce out-of-pocket costs if you get into an accident and need to repair or replace your specially-equipped vehicle.

Home insurance for veterans and military personnel

Whether you have a VA loan or a conventional loan, you're required to have homeowner's insurance.

Coverage requirements vary by lender. 

"Veterans who use VA Loan to buy a home are required to take out hazard insurance coverage to cover the cost of repairing or rebuilding the home in the event it is destroyed," Guina says.

Hazard coverage should cover damage to your home, including wind and fire damage, theft or vandalism. Other parts of a basic homeowner's insurance policy should cover damage to your property, such as a fence, deck or garage. It also should provide liability coverage if someone is injured on your property, in your home or if you damage someone else's property. 

You can add riders to your policy, too. For example, you can add a jewelry rider if you have valuable or sentimental family heirlooms stored in your home. 

McChristian says homeowners should also consider flood insurance.

"Flooding is the number one natural disaster in the U.S., and standard home insurance policies do not cover flood damage,” she says. 

How to save on home insurance

Several things will determine your home insurance rate, including your home’s age, claims history and replacement cost, where it's located and your credit and claims history. If you're looking for ways to save on a policy, consider the following options:

  • Bundle your policies: Getting your home and auto insurance policies from the same insurer can save you money. Many companies, including Allstate and State Farm, offer bundled discounts.

  • Increase your deductible. A deductible is what you pay out-of-pocket before your insurance kicks in to cover costs from a claim. Increasing your deductible could reduce your premiums.

  • Add more security features and updates: Adding a smart home security system, smoke detectors or even something as simple as deadbolts can reduce your premiums. In addition, reinforcing your roof, installing storm shutters and updating your plumbing, heating and electrical systems may lead to a policy discount. A more secure and updated home comes with less risk, so an insurer could lower your rate because of these changes.

     

Home insurance options if you're deployed

If you’re deployed, your home should remain insured while you're away.

"Unoccupied homes are a hazard. If no one is home, that means no one can report a theft, a water leak under the kitchen sink or roof damage from that unexpected hail storm. Most insurance policies have a clause that states a home vacant for a certain number of days, typically 30 days (sometimes longer), may not be covered for a loss. A homeowner can get an endorsement to their policy for unoccupied homes," McChristian says.

When you're shopping for home insurance, ask the insurer whether it has a deployment policy, how long your home can be unoccupied before you lose coverage and the costs of adding an endorsement to your policy to supplement your coverage.

Life insurance for veterans and military personnel

Life insurance comes in two forms: term life and permanent life, which includes whole life.

Term life insurance provides coverage for a specific period (typically anywhere from five to 30 years) and expires at the end of the term. Whole life insurance, which is more expensive, never expires and comes with a cash value component. Cash value lets a policyholder tap into money from a policy while alive.

Whether you want a term or whole life policy, serving in the military comes with higher risk. This often leads to higher private life insurer rates for service members. However, government programs are available to give you affordable coverage:

Active Service Members

  • Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI): Offers up to $400,000 of coverage for service members who meet eligibility requirements. That includes being an active-duty member of the Air Force, Army, Navy Marines, or Coast Guard or a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) member, cadet, or midshipman involved in authorized training. Coverage costs seven cents for every $1,000 of coverage.

  • Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (FSGLI): Provides coverage to spouses and dependent children of active-duty military personnel and National Guard and Ready Reserve members covered by full-time SGLI. Maximum coverage is $100,000 for a spouse and $10,000 for each dependent. The premium for spousal coverage increases with age, but dependent children get free coverage generally up to age 18.

  • Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance - Disability Extension (SGLI-DE): Service members who are disabled when they're discharged can access SGLI coverage for free for up to two years.

  • Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI): Provides short-term coverage of between $25,000 and $100,000 for service members with a qualifying traumatic brain injury who were previously covered under SGLI. The premium for TSGLI is a flat rate of $1 month.

Veterans

  • Veterans' Group Life Insurance (VGLI): Service members with SGLI coverage can transition to this coverage at the end of their military career. However, there are time limits on when you're eligible -- generally within one year and 120 days of when your service ends.

  • Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI): Service members who have a severe military-related disability and have adapted a home to meet their needs can qualify for this mortgage insurance. This coverage, which maxes out at $200,000, can't exceed the amount you still have left on your mortgage.

  • Service-Disabled Veterans' Insurance (S-DVI): Provides coverage of up to $10,000 to veterans who received a "service-connected disability rating by the Department of Veterans Affairs." Veterans who have basic S-DVI coverage and are completely disabled do not have to pay premiums for this insurance.

  • Supplemental Service-Disabled Veterans' Insurance (Supplemental S-DVI): Provides an additional $30,000 in coverage for veterans with basic S-DVI coverage. However, the premiums for this supplemental coverage can't be waived.

Guina says even with these options, it's important for service members to shop around for life insurance policies.

"SGLI is a very affordable group life insurance policy, but it is not portable. Members are no longer eligible for SGLI when they leave the military. VGLI becomes very expensive as veterans age, and is not always the best option," he says. 

"I encourage military members to shop for an affordable term life insurance policy while they are still serving in the military. They can keep their term life policy when their military service ends, and they will continue to have affordable term life coverage for the duration of their policy. Veterans who are no longer eligible for either SGLI or VGLI should seek out an affordable term life insurance policy,” he adds.

Health insurance for veterans and military personnel

Active-duty military personnel are automatically enrolled in the TriCare Program. Family members also can receive coverage through this program.

TriCare offers two main health plans: TriCare Prime and TriCare Select. TriCare Prime is free for active-duty military personnel and their families. However, veterans must pay an enrollment fee. The Select plan includes deductibles and copays. Similar to traditional health insurance, these costs are lower when you go to a doctor who is in TriCare's network.

TriCare also offers Prime and Select plans for service members who are in remote locations or overseas. Remote plans cover those who are more than 50 miles or a one hour's drive from a military hospital or clinic. The Prime remote plan comes with no annual deductible unless you use the point-of-service option. The plan comes with additional costs but more flexibility to visit any TriCare provider. The Prime Overseas Plan also works the same way, though the Select version of this plan comes with additional out-of-pocket costs.

TriCare currently offers 13 different health plans for active service members, veterans and their families. You can use the plan comparison tool on TriCare's website to determine which plan is right for you.

Veterans also can access VA benefits. Benefits for outpatient, inpatient and preventive services differ from TriCare plans, as do prescription drug benefits and copays. Visit this page to read an overview of how the two programs compare.

Private health insurance is also an option for veterans. You can use a private health plan in addition to your VA benefits. However, the VA will bill your insurance company for any medical services that a VA hospital or facility provides that isn't connected to a service-related injury or illness. The VA doesn't bill Medicare or Medicaid.

Additional insurance tips for service members and veterans

Whether you have insurance through a federal program or private insurer, it's essential to understand the fine print in the health plan before you sign up. Many insurers offer discounts to service members and veterans, while many government programs provide free or low-cost insurance coverage. 

Still, you should understand what kind of coverage you're getting for the cost and how this may change when you go from active duty to retired. Doing a bit of extra research can ensure you and your family have the insurance coverage and financial protection you need for the long term.