She Had No Idea He Turned Down SGLI

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Like so many of our service members, Lt. Cmdr. Landon Jones thought he was invincible. He was also the saver in his military home, squirreling away money for the future any way he could.

Which is why, in retrospect, it makes sense that he declined his Service member’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) policy five separate times. Even though it could pay his family up to $400,000 if he died, it was a extra $27 he could pocket every single month. Plus, he wasn’t going to die so he wouldn’t need it anyway.

But then he did.

landon-jones1Lt. Cmdr. Landon Jones and his co-pilot Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jonathan S. Gibson were killed Sept. 22, 2013 when water hit the spinning blades of their helo after it landed on a small Navy ship. The aircraft hit the deck and broke apart. A search and rescue was launched to find Jones and Gibson and then called off.

After a horrifying notification process in which Jones’ wife, Theresa Jones, learned of his death via the Navy’s social media pages, she was floored when she discovered that she and her two small children would not be receiving her husband’s SGLI because he didn’t have any. When a service member declines SGLI as Jones did five different time, the spouse is supposed to be notified in writing. And Theresa had never seen any paperwork or other documentation about her husband’s actions. And she had never thought of looking at his “page 2” – the part of his SGLI paperwork where he accepts or declines it.

“I don’t think he declined SGLI in an effort to hurt myself or our children,” Theresa told me. “I think he did it because he was a frugal man who never believed he would die.  He was trained to be a war fighting machine for the Navy.  … While my husband may have taken his decision to save that extra money each month to an extreme, and while he may have been a little cocky in thinking nothing would ever happen to him,  and whether or not I agree with it, I can see his train of thought.”

Theresa had no idea that her husband could completely decline SGLI. Like many military spouses, she and her husband worked as a team tackling different parts of their home and family. And the deployment related paperwork was his part.

“I feel this is embarrassing because I think people will look at me as a naive, idiotic woman for not asking my husband about the status of his SGLI. I also do not want to paint my husband in a bad light. He was a great husband, wonderful father, and amazing pilot and Navy Officer,” she told me. “I am a very educated Navy wife and while I was very involved in my husband’s career, I did not have my hand in every facet of it.  Every time we PCS’d, I left it up to my husband to take care of all the receipts and figure out the reimbursements for each of the 6 moves we did in our 10 years of marriage. I did not sit down with him to figure that stuff out.  Meanwhile, he left it up to me (mostly) to unpack the boxes and get our home life settled. We worked as a team and knew we each had a job we had to complete and did not micromanage each other as we did them.

Again, because I did not know that you could decline SGLI out right, I guess that was just something that never popped up on my radar.  I assumed it was taken care of on his end.”

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Theresa has appealed the SGLI situation in hopes of still being able to collect it because the Navy did not keep up its end of the bargain according to the regulation. She is also working with her Congressman, Ander Crenshaw, (R-Fla.) to find a fix so this never happens to anyone else again. Still, officials with the Office of SGLI told her that just because the regulation was broken doesn’t mean she can collect.

“They say that regardless that it is law that I be notified, the failure of notification does not affect the validity of any coverage election,” she said.

In the meantime Theresa says she feels a lot of fear for their future. For the time being she has his $100,000 death gratuity and monthly benefits from the DoD, VA and Social Security. However, over times the payouts will decrease and she will transfer to Tricare Retiree with its higher costs.

“While we are doing fine right now, I worry very much about future,” she said. “My sons were 6-years-old and 2.5 months old when my husband was killed.  I have at least 18 years of being solely financially responsible for them.  I was 33 when my husband was killed and have a very long life to live as well.  So, while I am fine today and in the short term, I very much worry about our long term financial security.”

While Theresa works to fix her SGLI situation, she hopes that her problem can work as a warning for others. Yes, your service member CAN decline SGLI and you may not be notified. And if the worst happens, you’ll be left in even more of a rut.

“What I want other spouses to take away is obviously to have these hard conversations and to not assume anything.  Be as proactive as humanly possible in as much as your spouse’s career as they will allow you to be, and even more so when it comes to the realities of the dangerous job they hold,” she said. “And now I am left behind on this earth, with 2 young children, to deal with the ramifications of all of it.   It is one big mess that I will deal with for the rest of my life. If I can prevent this from happening to another family with my story, then I know it wasn’t all in vain.”

Update — If you’d like to help the Jones family, contributions can be made in person at any Navy Federal Branch, through Paypal, or by mailing a check directly to Navy Federal. The address is 555 Saturn Blvd., Suite C, San Diego, CA 92154. Make checks payable to “Landon Jones Memorial Fund.” The Paypal account is landonjonesmemorialfund(at)gmail(dot)com, and the access code is 7406575. The access code is for Navy FCU, not Paypal.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

123 Comments on "She Had No Idea He Turned Down SGLI"

  1. laurafshack | April 7, 2014 at 9:29 am |

    How in the world could this be allowed to happen?!?! It is unconscionable that this method of notifying the spouse of lack of SGLI coverage has been allowed to exist to the present day. Just as with the forfeiture of SBP, (Survivor's Benefit Plan), upon retirement from the military – the spouse should be physically present to sign away her rights as beneficiary to an SGLI policy.

  2. Cyndia Rios-Myers | April 7, 2014 at 1:42 pm |

    Oh my Lord. Poor woman!!!

  3. Amy_Bushatz | April 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm |

    Hey First Mel — Were being extra careful with comments on this article. Theresa took a big risk by putting herself out there to share her story so that others won't be hurt this way in the future. We want to make sure she doesn't regret doing so. Since she'll probably be seeing the comments on we're going to go far beyond what we normally do with moderation. You know we usually welcome healthy debate but we're reigning it in this time. Thanks.

  4. Amy_Bushatz | April 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm |

    All — Were being extra careful with comments on this article. Theresa took a big risk by putting herself out there to share her story so that others won't be hurt this way in the future. We want to make sure she doesn't regret doing so. Since she'll probably be seeing the comments on we're going to go far beyond what we normally do with moderation. You know we usually welcome healthy debate but we're reigning it in this time. Thanks for understanding. — Amy, managing editor

  5. I applaud Theresa for sharing her family's story. I know way too many people who are in vulnerable situations because the financial matters are too compartmentalized or handled exclusively by one spouse. Men and women, civilian and military, who are in the complete dark about accounts, bills, paperwork, etc, when the unthinkable happens. If you see yourself in this article, make a change fast.

    Tough to have those conversations, but even tougher to have them when the other person is no longer with you.

    My heart goes out to you on your loss, Theresa.

  6. tripletmom04 | April 7, 2014 at 2:56 pm |

    I would never be able to forgive my husband if he did this to our family. I would become a very bitter widow knowing that he did this to us. $27/mo that we paid when we were in was nothing. We never missed it! How frugal do you have to be? At one point we had 5 kids including infant triplets that last time my husband was in combat. If something happened to him for a lousy $27/mo I would be bitter and never forgive him while I struggled alone with my children. And not being notified about it would be frustrating but not surprising.

  7. Wow! I never knew!

    I didn't know my husband had the right to refuse this benefit and I certainly had no idea that government was required to inform me. Talk about her finding out the hard way. I hope her appeal goes through and that we'll all have this conversation with our spouses.

    I am sorry for your loss Theresa.

  8. By law the spouse MUST be notified in writing of declination of coverage. It’s on p. 3 of the form. The personnel office should have done their job!
    I’m an AD Personnel NCO.

  9. My heart hurts for you. I am an army veteran, but I’m also and army widow. My babies were 2 and 5. I often say that I was fortunate that if it was in the stars for me to be a widow into 30s, atleast we were as prepared as possible due to the nature of the military. When I was in, SGLI was not optional. I didn’t realize it was an option now, I thought you could just elect for additional coverage.
    This page from my blog gives you a littleire back ground on me. Please feel free to reach out if you ever want a soul sister in this battle.

    Why I Started a Blog | Hot Mess Success http://hotmesssuccess.com/why-start-a-blog/

  10. As someone else said, double and triple check your spouse's page 2 information. I am a widow of 13 months with 3 children who, unfortunately, did not receive the 100K death gratuity due to both my spouse's and my oversight. It went to my mother-in-law. We had checked his page 2 with every move, but somehow, we missed this every time! So, please, take the time and plenty of your time, not just a quick glance, to be sure all the information on the page 2 is correct and up to date.

    The situation Theresa is in is unfortunate and so is mine. What is sad is that there are others who are in the same situation. We need to get the word out to be sure that this does not happen to anyone in the future.

  11. Toni Castor | April 7, 2014 at 3:57 pm |

    The same thing happened to me, although I was a lot older. My husband passed away 3 years ago, he served 26+ years in the USN, weeks after his death I no longer received his Navy retirement, no SGLI, no VA benefits. I went from comfortable to poverty and still had a child to raise. We lost our house and now my daughter, who is still in high school and is going to college, has turned 19 and her social security has ended. I pray The Lord we will survive this and one day hope to understand why. God bless you and your baby's you have a long road ahead but the independence that a military wife learns will get you through.

  12. my husband passed away last october….he is a retired marine…..they have informed me that i get nothing to help me house….i do not get any of his retirement or disability ……and they also said he did not have any life insurance…..its been very hard….emotionally and financially…….if anyone has any advice…that would be awesome.

  13. While my heart goes out to her, there is no way of knowing if her husband received the letters or not. He refused the SGLI and she, as a spouse, cannot get it for him. He chose not to get it and it has cost the family. If the Navy grants the appeal I will be very saddened.

  14. It’s a tight situation to be in. However, I’m surprised that she never looked at his LES.

  15. What can we do to help??? Bless this family. Thank you for the information we recently did an audit on ourselves to make sure our power of attorneys are up to date and went over our financial plans. Never occurred to look at the death benefits( I know we have life insurance on ourselves) but the 100,000 I did not know about. This is so scary and I really hope somehow this can be remedied.

  16. Theresa,
    I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story and shining a light on an important issue. You may have helped a fellow military spouse re-think, re-focus, and re-look their family's choices.

  17. It's very sad indeed, but how can you get this overturned. Not being amen but my husband has paid into the SGLI for his family for 20 years. How can you get what you never paid into . Let this be a sad warning for others.

  18. Meant to say mean not amen.

  19. Tiffany Johnson | April 7, 2014 at 7:49 pm |

    Her situation breaks my heart and right after I read this, it prompted me to have a talk with my husband!

  20. WOW! I cannot imagine having to be faced with the grief of losing your husband and then finding out that the one solace (life insurance that will handle the financial burden) is not coming! When our son was born 13 years ago we added double the benefits offered by SGLI for both hubs and myself from an outside Military insurance company. I pray to never get them but the comfort I there just knowing …

  21. Wow Vern a little harsh there . While I agree she should not get the SGLI as they never paid one dime into it. No need to be rude. This poor woman has enough to deal with as it is.

  22. My heart breaks for her! Why can't they offer her the SGLI and deduct the $325 per year that he served and would have paid in? It's not ideal, but there should be paperwork for the spouse to sign to indicate knowledge that any rights to a claim are waived.

  23. Jessie that just would not be fair to other military member that did the same thing by not getting the SGLI.

  24. Vern, I believe you missed the point of the article. Theresa is just trying to educate others so they don't have to go through the same experience. Your comment is entirely inappropriate.

  25. I bet when she kept tabs on his LES every month she noticed the block that says Net Pay:…..But she didn't notice he had no SGLI???? That dog don't hunt around here…

  26. Would one of the administrators please delete Vern's comment?? That is a display of true ignorance that this woman and her family does not need to endure. Now, thank you Theresa for sharing because you reminded me to double, triple, quadruple check all of my husband's benefit information. And you brought to light the fact that active duty personnel CAN reject this coverage without a spouses signature….WHO KNEW?!

  27. Kudos to Theresa for sharing this info with the public! So often some issue will arise and people are too embarrassed to inform the public. This isn't embarrassing. More spouses will pay attention to this from now on due to this article.

  28. I hope this article will prod some women to get involved with financial planning. The basics are quite simple to understand. The Y chromosome doesn't contain a special money management gene, men do not have special skills in this area. One of the basics of financial planning is that parents with young children should have life insurance and wills that designate a legal guardian. Military people are lucky in that they can buy subsidized insurance coverage specially designed for military life through SGLI. For those who might consider declining it, they should know that it is a good deal. They would be getting a bargain. This story brings up another issue that I think military spouses, particularly stay at home mothers, should think about. And that is funding their own retirement account. I think that families where the spouse does not work should make funding a spousal IRA for that spouse a priority. Because the standard military retirement benefits legally belong to the military member and not the spouse. If a military member has a spouse that has to sacrifice paying work for this lifestyle, that person's welfare should be put first. Fund a spousal IRA before funding a Thrift Savings Plan account. People don't know if their spouse might someday divorce them either and they should have something in their own names and not be at the mercy of a judge.

  29. IN DEFENSE OF VERN:
    Vern, I agree with you 100% and I don't think you're being rude at all. You're simply being realistic. It is an awful tragedy that this woman's husband was taken. My heart breaks for her and their children. Nonetheless, Vern is right. She should not get the SGLI. I don't understand how a U.S. Naval Officer could possibly think it was ok not to have life insurance. That is just insane. And it's even crazier to think that his wife wouldn't know. A marriage is a partnership. Yes the service member is responsible for his/her official paperwork, etc., but life insurance is a family matter. That is something that must be discussed when you're married, especially if you have children, especially if you're a service member. Both spouses need to be fully informed about family finances, which of course includes life insurance. And service members should be checking their LES's every month, whether they're physically handed out or not. The military is not to blame here. This is a matter of personal accountability and Congress should stay out of it.

  30. I can't wrap my head around how saving $27.00 is a good argument for not getting SGLI when you have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. I think the only fix here moving forward so that this does not happen to anyone else is to make SGLI mandatory. Some things just need to happen. Tomorrow is never promised no matter how invincible our service members think they are.

  31. @LLMilitaryWife | April 7, 2014 at 10:17 pm |

    I am sorry to say the SGLI process isn't the only enlightening thing to know. I wrote this blogpost last year on the ugly things none of us milspouses want to talk about and I received such a huge email response that my email crashed. I'm re posting it here in hopes of helping others in situations of hardship. There's more that needs to be discussed…..

    http://lifelessonsmilitarywife.com/?p=3660

  32. GoldStarWife | April 8, 2014 at 12:04 am |

    Theresa –

    A mutual friend sent me the link to your story. My heart aches for you. Not only for the loss of your husband and having to raise your two young children alone, but also for your SGLI situation. This was me almost ten years ago. Two young children and pregnant with our third when I received the dreaded knock at our door. While my late husband did elect to have the SGLI, he listed someone other than myself (his wife) or our three children as the beneficiary. Everything you said in the article I felt at some point and thought. I know in my heart that his decision was not to hurt us, but I wish he would have talked to me about it and I wish I would have asked the right questions. It is actually because of my situation and a handful of others that the notification process (or in some cases lack of) was implemented. The notification process was the best choice because no one ever wanted a Service Member to be forced into doing something he or she didn't want to do. The thought was that at least if the spouse was notified then it would allow for a discussion that might not take place otherwise. I am educated, but was naive and assumed things were in place before he deployed. I purchased life insurance shortly after my husband's death for our children and my Insurance Rep who is located near Camp Pendleton still uses "our story" (without our names) as an example to Service Members and the importance of having life insurance and talking over the decisions with your spouse. I am truly sorry for your loss.

  33. I don't think Vern needs to be beat up over this. It's a crying shame that this ladies husband chose to turn down the SGLI 5 times . I hope that her story makes others check their insurance. This is sad and tragic , but was so unavoidable, if I have no car insurance and wreck my car. I cannot expect the insurance company to grandfather me in and pay for my wrecked car. While Vern's words may not come across the right way. I get what he's trying to say. ( with the exception of welfare and finding another officer to marry) don't really think that was necessary. I'm sorry for your loss Theresa.

  34. The twenty years I spent on active duty, I never paid a monthly premium for my SGLI, I did not have a college education, like your husband, I was aware of how important health care I received was. I am sure with the education benefits, chapter 35, provided to you, you will be able to obtain a good education and support yourself and your children. I am grateful for all I have received from the taxpayers after my husband also died while on active duty.

  35. The hardest part of this entire post is that SGLI is not a government company. It is a private company just like Progressive or State Farm.

    Going through the Department of the Navy will do little.

  36. Its not about her wanting money in and of itself- I think the main driver is that the USN did not fulfill its obligation to notify her one of the 5 times he declined. Had the procedure been followed, perhaps she would have changed things. However, maybe the USN didnt "want" to look into it- as by not looking into it, it can save them money.

    I do think the USN administration should have to answer for their lack of follow thru- surely there is some type of electronic paper trail that could show if any letters were generated. If not, I think she has a substantial case. The due diligence goes all around. Her husband, herself and the USN Admin.

    May the Lord bless her and keep her. Her story is making a difference. Due to this- I doubled check with my husband and feel like I need to be on top of things more. So it will help many!

  37. I am glad she is speaking out and calling attention to something that many of us may only think about just before deployments (or not at all). I guess I am greatly bothered by the part where he "thought he was invincible." As a member of the aviation community for the last 14 years, I have sadly been to many memorial services for fallen aviators. While the cause in some cases was pilot error (and theoretically could then have been prevented through better experience or judgement), sometimes it was caused by an airplane malfunction or a more experienced pilot being struck mid-air. Regardless, the deep and underlying feeling that we all walk away with is that NO ONE is invincible. That it could happen to our friend, our neighbor, or even us. And not just when presented with the dangers of aviation, but the uncertainty of life. A parent can just as easily be killed in an accident. Providing for a spouse and surviving children upon the incidence of your death is every bit as important as providing for them in life, if not more so, and one of the most profound responsibilities you will ever undertake. And for those who question the cost, as he seemed to, consider how frivolously $27 a month is often spent: a few coffees, magazines, a manicure, a lunch at Panera. I would say, make it a priority. Save the money somewhere else.

  38. Maybe they can find a way to let her have the coverage after paying pack the $27 a month with interest the rest of the service members pay. It’s hard to believe though that in 10 years she never saw an LES…not once? It breaks my heart, but her family (yes I said family, because she chose to let him choose) chose to pass on this benefit. I’m sorry it was a bad choice and my heart really does break for them. BUT…what about all the wives who didn’t receive the money because their husband set it up to go to someone else??? Should they be aloud to collect as well. I’m sorry she feels blindsided by it all.

  39. Army spouse | April 8, 2014 at 7:34 am |

    I am so proud of her for sharing her story. This could not be easy, having people judge and second guest you and your husband past decisions. Hindsight is a gewat thing when you are the person looking in… Also, most LESs are now paperless! No more print out for your spouse Tracei Parks bring home. You must now know their username and password to view their LES. Thank you for sharing your story, I promise you that your lesson has helped at least one family decision to talk about this issue. Thank you for that.. Good luck and God bless you and your crew. God speed

  40. My heart goes out to Theresa and other wives this simar situation seems to have effected through the years. Wouldn’t it be nice if this was an automatic coverage provided for the families of those that serve?

  41. I think the most surprising thing on here to me is the number of spouses that don't check their husbands LES's at any given time. I usually check his quarterly, simply because he doesn't have the time to do it. I check to ensure there is no extra pay, that the life and dental insurance are paid (had a couple glitches with Dental, DoD wasn't taking out the right amount resulting in dropped coverage), verify that the information, addresses and bank allotments (we split part of his paycheck to a different account as "mad money") are correct and monitor and adjust any TSP contributions, which, especially during deployments we do, A LOT to maximize the Roth option prior to switching it to a conventional. In a non deployment year we adjust it 2-3 times a year.

    At the bare minimum as a spouse you should be keeping and seeing Decembers LES so you can calculate any CFC contributions etc on your taxes.

    Generally every time you move a landlord or a mortgage company is going to want to see one as proof of income as well.

    If anything this article has alerted many people that they need to be WAY more financially knowledgeable in their life and relationship.

  42. As a military wife with a deployed spouse.. THANK YOU for sharing your story. My heart goes out to Theresa and her family. As a military spouse I take offense to any comments shared here being rude or inappropriate to this dedicated wife. (In all honesty.. she is NOT asking for anyone's opinion so feel free to keep them to yourself). I have been a military wife for over 20 years… I have my fingers in NOTHING pay related. I don't even log into MyPay!!! I depend on my husband to take care of that aspect of our lives. But he too could make a mistake and miss something or make a decision such as Theresas husband did to save $27. Despite my opinion (Vern) of whether it would be "fair" to others (because we all know life isn't fair without someone having to point it out to us) I hope Theresa can take a level of comfort from knowing wives such as myself will have this discussion with my husband to talk about this and hopefully be able to acknowledge an issue we may decide to change. Thoughts and prayers to all military families out there. Let's support each other.

  43. mkmjjmmom | April 8, 2014 at 9:21 am |

    There is not much to say that hasn't already been said here. I think the main take-away from this article is that spouses MUST take an active role in the financial planning, from the monthly or weekly budgeting for groceries to the planning of life insurance, investments, etc. It cannot be something that is left up to one spouse or the other (vacuuming or cleaning out the garage can be delegated…financial chores should be done as a team, no matter how difficult it may be). Couples should work together, both knowing where passwords, documents, and all account numbers can be found. There should be NO secrets.

    One of the best programs around for learning how to work together as a couple for this type of thing is Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace. Many churches and installations offer this course.

    Thank you Theresa for going out on a limb and sharing your tragedy in order to spare other families. My heart goes out to you and your precious babies. The fact that you had the strength to share this story shows that you have the strength to make it through.

  44. retiredusnnavywife | April 8, 2014 at 9:30 am |

    Theresa, thank you so much for sharing your story.

    To any senior military spouse or counselor to military couples, please, please mention this to those who look to you for guidance. Also, I saw the comment from Toni about no benefits upon her retired husband's death. If you counsel young military couples, please also talk about SBP.

  45. Heartbreaking. Will make many people rethink alot on SGLI/SBP (retirees). My husband medically retired and he choose to pay into SBP, he's frugal as well but once DFAS explained what it was, no need to get rid of it.

    Tricare Retiree is less than $200 for a family/quarterly (according this fiscal year) and yes, there are co-pays but hopefully she can find a solution to this.

  46. This is such a heartbreaking story. Young people never anticipate dying and leaving behind a new family. I think it’s also important to take note about survivor benefits for retiring members. A spouse must sign and have a notary witness the form to deny benefits. It’s a tempting thing to want to decline bc of the cost (almost $100 per month) however, you just never know what the future holds.

  47. @LLMilitaryWife | April 8, 2014 at 10:51 am |

    I am so sorry for Theresa's loss and hope that one of the many benevolent organizations out there can lend her a helping hand til she figures out how to get some income. Many of these organizations will also provide free college to children of the deceased servicemembers, whether her husband was a member or not. Lastly, Theresa can always set up a gofundme.com site and maybe there will be people generous enough to donate, in particular those of us she has helped get smart so this won't happen to us? I know it's hard to ask for money but sometimes you have to set that proudness aside for the short term until you get back on your feet. God bless!

    Suzanne you mention retiree benefits I agree. No matter your networth or what your retiree's job may be after retirement, I wouldn't recommend signing away those Survivor Benefit Plan benefits as a spouse! I have a friend right now whose husband died within 6 months of retiring…suddenly….he had a great paying job and maybe they thought they would save enough that way, but now they have NOTHING and she is about to lose her house. You can never go back and make it retroactive! My stepmom refused it as well and if something happens to my father, even with her job, she won't be able to pay the mortgage without it. It may seem like a lot per month but in the long run, you should consider keeping it!

  48. My husband .. denied me (his wife) life insurance when he was in basic training… checked the wrong box, didn't understand, or was trying to save money. .. We tried to get it corrected a few times even before he left for a deployment in Iraq…but the original paperwork took precedence so it voided the other paperwork and thus it wouldn't take hold. It took us over 8 years to get it fixed – finally got the papers earlier this year saying that I was approved.

  49. Theresa, I am so sorry for your loss and I thank you for sharing your story. I can guarantee families will have this conversation and this will help another family. Set up a fundraising page at go fund me- I’m sure there are others like me who would give what they could to help you and your family.

  50. Thank you for sharing your story and I’m so sorry for your loss. My husband and I were not even aware SGLI was optional! He’s got 16 years in and said to me when I asked “service members are automatic, we don’t get to opt out of that.” After showing him your story, he is calling his Yoeman now as we are on leave and he doesn’t have access to reset his password (again) to access his information. While we knew enough to plan to get the SBP when he retires, this is completely new information to us about the SGLI and has opened up a dialect that wasn’t there before. I’ll be reposting your story and sharing it with as many friends as I can. Thank you.

  51. First off: Theresa, I am sincerely sorry for you and your family's loss. And doubly disturbed for the situation you find yourself in. I can only hope there is a positive outcome.
    I applaud you for bringing this issue into the public forum, where you have to suffer some indignation from some rather unpleasant individuals.

    Secondly: As a retired USN Chief, I am shocked to hear multiple comments about retiree's pay stopping upon their death…completely unaware of this.
    How and where can I find out if this would be our case?
    Thank you and God Bless.

  52. My husband was also an aviator and was paid an additional $100 per month. At first I thought it was because he was 'better' than others and mentioned that. He informed me it was so he could purchase additional life insurance because he was more likely to die.

    He didn't, but we still are paying for additional life insurance now that he is retired.

  53. Good for Theresa to share her story! Also wanted to add the importance of extra
    Life insurance. Many companies give term life insurance and wave the combat clause or high risk activity and it’s very affordable. 400k isn’t going to last forever.

  54. First of all, my heart goes out to any person who has lost a loved one is this way. I myself am a National Guardsman and spouse to an active duty Marine. During deployment situations, guardsmen cannot completely decline SGLI, I was told that the minimum we could hold was 100k. This story brings so much light on my own situation, because as a full time mother (aside from my drill weekends), I have considered many times to decline the SGLI and SSLI stateside because they cut into my 2day income. And then the thought of getting into a car accident on my 2hr drive on drill weekend and leaving my family without a stable future pops into my head, and I cannot let myself decline it. Planning in case of death can be a difficult/uncomfortable conversation to have with your spouse. We don’t ever plan for one of us to be hurt or killed in action, but you just never know. My husband has never showed me his forms, but informed me of his choices for amounts/beneficiaries. I think after this story, I am going to have to ask for a copy of his, as I willingly provide mine. After all, it is in best interest of our 2 small children. Thank you Teresa for allowing your story to be shared, and again my heart is with you and your family for your loss.

  55. I would like to response to the LES and my pay access conversation. The service member may give a limited user name and password to who ever they wish to, so that person may have access to limited info on my pay. I think it is defiantly something all spouses should look into and discuss with their service members
    Also SGLI is a private insurance company that provides life insurance at a great rate and easy to obtain the servicemembers. That private company is the ones that make the payout not the individual service itself. I think we as spouses must always remember that we as adult individuals are in the end truly responsible for ourselves and our own well being. While having a teammate to help us lookout for ourselves is great and ideal, unfortuatly life is ideal.

    38) What is a Limited Access Password?
    The Limited Access Password may be given to one or multiple individuals along with a Login ID to view your pay and tax statements without allowing them to create any pay changes. You may establish a Limited Access Password and Login ID by clicking on the Personal Settings Page option on the main menu, then selecting the Limited Access option. You may delete users’ Limited Access at any time. If the user suspends their Limited Access Password you must establish a new Limited Access Password and provide that new Password to the user.

  56. I am sorry but it's pretty easy to see the SGLI coming out every month on your LES. Did she never look at an LES ever? Maybe a paper should have been sent but you have to be educated in what you should be receiving and what should be deducted every month because all sorts of mistakes can be/are made.

  57. carolinecloud | April 8, 2014 at 1:42 pm |

    Thank you, thank you Theresa for having the courage to address this. My husband is in Special Operations with 10 combat deployments and I did not know it was possible to decline coverage. SHAME SHAME on his command for not reviewing this coverage and alerting you.

    After reading this, I did learn that spouses can check on the Leaving and Earnings Statement (LES) to see if the SGLI coverage is being taken out every month. I encourage every active duty spouse to check the LES today for this. Thank you again for looking out for your larger Navy family about this issue.

  58. What if he had not even left it to her, or even the death gratuity? The wives don't have any legal control over who the beneficiary is, nor can you force them to make you the beneficiary. So this is a "warning" to those in control over the SGLI (the service member), but not the spouse. As someone mentioned, perhaps HE got the letter since it's his legal business. They can go into their system to see if the mailer was in fact, sent out. If it was mailed out, they shouldn't turn over the decision. She can set up a private fund for people to donate to, but she can't expect to the rest of her life without a job….

    @Jessie: It's like insurance, you can't get it AFTER the fact, you get it "just in case".

  59. wtpworrier | April 8, 2014 at 3:50 pm |

    “I don’t think he declined SGLI in an effort to hurt myself or our children,” Theresa told me. “I think he did it because he was a frugal man who never believed he would die."__________________________I really don't know how to respond to this one, I've never heard of anything like this before. When I was younger, I thought I was invincible too, but I signed up for SGLI. No matter how invincible we think we are, we all can die. I think the Military, all branches, should explain the dangers of Military life, and make it mandatory that everybody sign up for SGLI….I'am not sure but, I think DoD can do that. MAKE IT POLICY.

  60. Theresa, thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry for your loss. My heart breaks for you and your boys. I've been a military spouse for more than 10 years, I am college educated, and I too never knew declining SGLI was an option. Talking about death is always uncomfortable and unthinkable when you love someone. Thank YOU for bringing this important topic to the forefront. You are not the only 10 + year educated military spouse who was in the dark about declining SGLI benefits. I will keep you and your boys in my thoughts.

  61. Domingo Aguilar | April 8, 2014 at 4:58 pm |

    While in the military we sign a lot of paperwork, some good, and some bad, but we do it anyway, but SGLI is not one of those documents not to sign, in-fact it's one of the most important documents of all, other than our re-enlistment documents. This is the only security we have for our family incase something should happen to us. This officer should have known better.

  62. My heart just sinks for this woman, it's so devastating, I can only imagine the emotional roller-coaster it has been for her. My husband has suggested several times that he would like to increase his SGLI during deployments, in case anything happens, in my ignorance I brush it off. I think this really opens my eyes to my own personal denial that it can happen any time. I wish nothing but the best for this woman and I hope this leads to some changes in policy regarding the SGLI. My husband can't take a personal loan from his TSP without my consent, I think there should at be at least a notification confirmation in place, if anything.

  63. This is the EXACT reason why every spouse should know more about how to read an LES. First thing my husband did when we got married was give me access, I learned how to read it and notified him of changes. When we PCS’d, we did everything together. I learned how pay works, medical benefits, everything I could. It is like I tell other spouses, get involved, learn and get access. If he/she is not willing to do that, then you should ask yourself why he is willing to give you his name, but not insight into things that could potentially affect you down the road.

  64. This is the EXACT reason why every spouse should know more about how to read an LES. First thing my husband did when we got married was give me access, I learned how to read it and notified him of changes. When we PCS’d, we did everything together. I learned how pay works, medical benefits, everything I could. It is like I tell other spouses, get involved, learn and get access. If he/she is not willing to do that, then you should ask yourself why he is willing to give you his name, but not insight into things that could potentially affect you down the road.

  65. Mrs Pollack | April 8, 2014 at 5:43 pm |

    As a spouse of a military member, it is a must you know how their benefits work. You as the spouse have to understand that when plans are not in place you end up not being covered. I remember when my husband was still serving. I would have talks with other spouses and they would tell me their spouses would not take the SGLI. At the time, $19.00@month for $200,000 worth of coverage was worth it. However there are stipulation of why they don't have to pay out either. KNOW your plans, As a spouse it is your responsibility to make sure that your spouse has the right coverage, how it works, what are the down falls and always remember it is your family not SGLI problems. It is better to have some Term life insurance plan outside of your military. Make sure there is not a war clause that would prevent you from collecting the benefits should your military member pass. I'm glad that they do have the spouses come in when the member ready for retirement. The spouse has to sign off if you don't want any part or some of their retirement to go to the spouse, as well. Know your options. Sorry about Theresa, I'm glad she is speaking out. She didn't do anything wrong. If you don't know, you just don't know. Ask and the answers will be given.

  66. Theresa is being extremely brave to make herself and her husband vulnerable by sharing her story. Perhaps shockingly, she sounds better prepared and more knowledgeable than a majority of military spouses. Too often I see/hear the "it's his job, nothing to do with me" bit and it is frustrating, after 21 years as an active duty spouse and having helped others through just about every tragic thing imaginable. It is important to be proactive. Have the financial and "what if" conversation, even if he doesn't want to, especially if you have kids. Don't take anything for granted, no matter how much you love each other, how well you communicate, work as a team and share decisions. Look into private disability and life insurance policies for BOTH of you. The younger and healthier you are, the cheaper it is. It is one of the most important investments you can make. You can take a policy out on your spouse, you don't have to depend on whether he does his SGLI. That's just one decision you can't leave totally up to one spouse. Theresa should be commended for her strength and turning her personal tragedy into a campaign to help other military families avoid the same fate. The saddest part is that I KNOW there are spouses out there who just won't listen, until it's too late. I experienced it in December during the campaign to educate spouses on the 18 different drawdown possibilities for 2014. They didn't care or want anything to do with it, until their spouses started telling them they had to be out of base housing within thirty days and their medical was only good another year or two and their only income was a small severance that they had decided on and signed for without discussing with their spouses. That's just one example. Unexpected death is not the only sector a active duty members' decisions regarding their careers can negatively affect their families. Completely without their knowledge, until it is too late. PLEASE greet your spouses with a barrage of questions tonight and take proactive steps to make sure an oversight or bad decision on your or your spouses' part doesn't leave your families vulnerable to an uncertain future!

  67. i am sorry for her loss and all she went through afterwards. what can be learned here is commnication between spouses is so important and that we have to ask questions. we should talk to our loved ones about life in, debut, organ donation and wills. reserach these topics and speak to a lawyer. not only can service members elect/decline life ins for themselves they can do the same for their spouses ins. we also discussed ins plans for our children as we have seen families hit hard by the unexpected death of a child. We also have ins. from other sources. A Will can also let you know how any money & property, if any, is expected to be divided up. a spouse might be surprised if their loved one gives a portion to parents or siblings ect. we have to have these discussions with our spouses because its better to be prepared and honor the wishes of the deceased. i am sorry that she went through we must be responsible for ourselves and our children. the good that can come from her willingness to share is to help others talk about money, life insurance, Wills, dorgan donation, debuts that would need to be settled from the estate, division of benefits esp if one person has children from outside the current marriage, and so on. Keep all important paperwork, ask spouse for copies if need then put in fireproff safe. we share passwords so that the other can access if ever need to. Best wishes to her and the kids and thanks for sharing about a topic that is personal and difficult but may help someone else from facing the same.

  68. Tina Sanchez | April 8, 2014 at 6:53 pm |

    I was recently put in the same situation. My husband was a 27 year Army Vet. He and I actually talked about the SGLI 2 days before he passed away on January 16, 2014. He said he had either $240,000 or$450,000. When he passed away, I found out that he didn’t keep the payments up and I was never notified. I’m in dire straights because I am 100% disabled. We have 2 houses, 2 vehicles, and land in Colorado that I have to pay on and don’t have the money.

  69. Mary Ellen Sullivan | April 8, 2014 at 7:53 pm |

    My husband died in 1990 of effects of Agent Orange. Years before his death he had set up plans that would give me Survivor Benefits instead of insurance. I receive over $2200 a month just for waking up in the morning. and have for 23 years. I am now told that I may be eligible for AO benefits. I learned after he died that I could have AO benefits or SB and I chose SB. The AO benefits would be real help for my now-grown children. Any info out there.

  70. First, my sincere condolences to the family. Concerning this article, I am very conflicted. On the one hand, I understand that it must be completely devastating to find out that the insurance you thought you could count on after such a tragic event was not there. As a human being (and a military spouse), my heart goes out to Theresa and I pray that she is able to provide for her family moving forward. At the same time, I know that my husband and I have not only paid in to SGLI for 18+ years, but we've also purchased additional life insurance for extra coverage now and in the future when he is no longer in the military. I have a hard time rationalizing the idea that she should be paid SGLI benefits when her husband declined SGLI numerous times. It burdens me to say this as I am sympathetic to the situation, but it's true. It's a slippery slope to go down to pay out SGLI benefits when premiums were never paid in – will this be retroactive for everyone in this situation? It's very easy to get caught up in the tragedy (and in our own patriotism) and wish things were different for this family, but choices were made by her husband that, in retrospect, were not wise for the family. Unfortunately this happens all the time. How many widows would gladly go back and pay premiums to be allowed to collect a life insurance policy, military and civilian alike? We all make a gamble when we choose whether or not to purchase insurance. Again, it really does pain me to say this because I have much sympathy for this family. Having said all of this, I do admire Theresa for doing whatever she can to continue to provide for her family. I also know that it took great courage for her to open up about this situation and allow it to be printed. Her candor will undoubtedly push many people to re-evaluate their own circumstances and preparations for the future. May peace be with this family.

  71. She could still file a claim against the Navy for loss of consortium. I would get an attorney and file a claim. It's worth a shot. It might get paid. Good luck.

  72. Theresa, your loss is not in vain. You are a strong woman who married a selfless man. Thank you for your service to this country as a military spouse. I read a blog post on an FRG FB page about you finding out about the death of your husband on social media and use that as a reminder before I post anything. That story has been shared on so many sites and I am sorry that it is your loss that people need to learn from. May God keep you and your children under his grace. Your husband is surely in heaven and will be your side until you are together again.

  73. First and foremost I am sorry for your loss. I am however so glad you decided to share. I work in Employee Benefits/insurance. It is amazing to me how many men think they are not touchable, and its a shame. Some one else mentioned old beneficiary information – this is also SO important. It is so sad when I have to deliver a life benefit to an ex-spouse instead of his grieving spouse.

  74. What I find interesting is how now they make sure to emphasize that he declined five times. Guess what… This is FIVE times that the Navy failed to NOTIFY this spouse. Five opportunities to have sent a written notification. Shame on them, she deserves to have an influence on this decision, it’s a marriage of two. She deserves to be paid that money, mostly for her children. The Navy should be embarrassed for their lack of care.

  75. J. Thornton | April 8, 2014 at 10:25 pm |

    SAME THING HAPPENED TO ME! December 11, 1996 my husband died, a Desert Shield/Desert Storm Veteran and 22 year Army National Guardsmen. I had NO idea my husband had dropped the SGLI, NEVER was I notified. SGLI could not show me any documents that proved he had dropped it, nor a date when it was dropped. We had an 8 yr old son and a 14 yr old daughter…and zero Life insurance! I was too busy to fight the battle to get details concerning SGLI …because the VA fought my claim of Service Connected Death for three and one-half years. I was caught up in multiple Appeals, raising a family alone, and going back to work full-time. M husband and I talked one time about that insurance and his comment was that he would NEVER drop it because it was so economical . He had $400,000 worth. So I expected that at his death. Clearly spouses need more education in such matters! Someone is dropping the ball on the record keeping within the system and these notices are not being sent out before any laps of insurance takes place.

  76. laura rodriguez | April 8, 2014 at 11:34 pm |

    Im Sorry To Hear Of Your Lots But Good Luck. I Was Shot By My Husband Who Was In The Marine Core For Almost 13 Years. I Almost Died THey Deny The Ptsd And My 2 kiDs I Are Left With Trans Comp And That’s It. Still Fightinging For Ssi. hope The Military Does Your Family Better ThaN They Did Mine. Prayers And Positive Thoughts To You And Yours.

  77. Safaribuzz | April 9, 2014 at 12:27 am |

    When I was a Personnel Warrant Officer I had many GI's that would not sign the record of Emergency Data sheet or designate their Spouse or anyone else to collect benefits.

  78. This is so heartbreaking. I just wouldn't know what to do. Which is why my husband and I have made a point to talk about these kind of situations. Everyone should. If you don't, you shouldn't blame others. I swear my heart breaks for this family. But we can't blame others just because things went wrong. It just can't work that way. Make sure you talk to your spouse. Work it out together, before the unthinkable ever has the chance to take away your chance.

    And please, don't blame things on your mistake. Yes, it is a shame but talk and pay attention. You had 10 years. The only news here is to make sure to talk with your spouse.

  79. JJ Murray | April 9, 2014 at 7:27 am |

    First – SGLI is something you spend time TALKING about with your spouse. He or she needs to be fully aware of what it is, if you have it, and how it works. Second – While you;re in there is NO reason NOT to have this to protect your family. Third – When you retire THEN you've got a big discussion and decision to make about SGLI, but that's a whole 'nuther discussion.

  80. Insurance is a kind of gamble. But it's a gamble that brings peace of mind rather than takes it.

  81. For the spouses that their husbands are still on active duty and about to retire, make sure that you sign up for the Survivor's Benefit Plan (SBP). You will receive a PERCENTAGE of your spouses' retirement after he/she passes away. The spouse has to be present to sign up or decline the coverage.

  82. AppyHorsey | April 9, 2014 at 10:37 am |

    As Military spouses, WE SHOULD be "allowed" to elect SGLI even if the "soldier" does not want it. We go thru the Military experience with them, sometimes putting up with even more "crap" than the soldier does. We give up just as much of our lives for the military as the soldier does, but we are always treated as secondhand citizens. Things are changing now, "some" for the better, but years ago, the "spouse" was not allowed to discuss ANYTHING "legal" (bills, etc.). It always made me MAD, because "I" was always the one dealing with the bills, getting them paid on time, etc. He was never home. But if ANYthing ever arose and I needed an "answer" (I sent the payment, why didin't you get it, etc.) they would not even DISCUSS it with me. I'd explain he was out of Country, but they didn't care. Late fees racked up, because "he" wasn't here to talk with them (And when he WAS here, he had no idea what it was about, because "I" was the one who always paid bills,etc.). As I said, things are getting better now, but still not ideal. Meanwhile, when he retired, he wanted to refuse SGLI. I INSISTED that I BE THERE with him when he retired (in another state) and I was surprised they even allowed me in there, considering my "second class citizenship" I was used to after 20+ years, but when he declined SGLI, I was sitting right there and threatened to "have a fit" if he didn't accept it. He finally DID accept it, but he didn't "want" to. Luckily, it's not something we've needed to "collect", but I feel better knowing it's there. I don't think it's "fair" that the spouse/family is expected to give up our "lives" to live the military way, without ANY SAY in what happens "financially", with insurance or anything else.

  83. Michael G. Crist | April 9, 2014 at 11:22 am |

    I don't think the SGLI benefits should be paid out. Period. Although unfortunate… it was an extremely poor decision [made five separate times], which had some very serious, long-term consequences.

    On the other hand… it shouldn't take much to establish a trust for the boys. There seem to be many compassionate people posting here, who would be more than willing to contribute. If word gets out about the trust… then $400,000 could easily be achieved in four years or less.

    Is anyone working on this?

    I became aware of this through Military.com. So keeping them updated on this story, and asking them to run a follow-up article concerning the establishment of a trust would definitely help get the word out.

    Meanwhile… Theresa is correct is pursuing every remedy to make sure this never happens again. Never!

  84. Teresa can file a claim against the Navy for loss of consortium and she can do so for free at the Legal Assistance Office. It is absolutely possible that her claim will paid.

  85. As a military widow, I know this situation is one of the hardest a family can go through. As military spouses, we need to be kept informed of benefits from as many sources as possible.
    Outside of military benefits there are also many private organizations out there to help. I work with Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, (www.fallenpatriots.org) whose mission is to provide debt-free college education to military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty. We hope to find and help every family out there who has gone through a tragedy like the Jones’ to help them bridge the gap of the costs of college. We also have a list of resources of other organizations who help: fallenpatriots.org/what-we-do/resources/ and please spread the word to those you know who have lost their spouse. We want to make sure they get the help they need and deserve!

  86. happyfrenchman | April 9, 2014 at 3:45 pm |

    I find this absolutely disgraceful. IMO there is no sugar coating this one. A helicopter pilot with the navy declines cheap life insurance, on top of the fact that he has very young children? That is just beyond the pale. I feel for this woman and I hope the service overrides his decision because she should have had to sign an acknowledgment form, which, if it were presented to her, I presume she would have told her husband to fork out the 27 dollars. That is inexcusable and irresponsible. Her best hope is that she never saw a waiver.

  87. My heart bleeds for your loss. This is something for spouses to think about also, my husband and I where trying to have a child he had reached his 20 yrs in the AF Reserve and was told he had to choose to either select survivor benefits or he would loose it. He being a great husband and father at a later date chose to secure my and later our daughter's life if he passed on. I was not given a choice to help him make decision if he chose not to inform me. So if a Reservist is reading ask the question, unless it has changed.

  88. I’m an active duty Soldier. Before I had children I elected to give 50% of my SGLI pay off to my mother and the other 50% to my husband. Because my husband was not a beneficiary of 100% a letter was sent to him notifying him of my choice. Although the notification was sent, the choice of beneficiaries and amounts was still totally up to me. My spouse was not automatically entitled to anything. There is also an additional spousal insurance for $100,000, but you must elect to enroll in it as well. I feel very badly for the pilot’s wife, but her husband shouldn’t have been a cheap scate. There a consequences for our actions. He was an officer and a professional. He made a conscious decision for his family not to get compensated in case of his death. No, the wife should not get paid. My husband and I are both enlisted and pay into our SGLIs. We also know what’s important and when to be frugal !

  89. What a sad, sad story! My Aunt also lost everything when her husband, a 24 yr Air Force Vet passed away. No retirement, SGLI or anything for her, after raising 4 kids for all those yrs. She lost their lifelong home & now subsists on $700 pr mo in Social Security, in a rundown apartment building. Not even enough to cover her bills & food!? Great thanks for a widow who dedicated her life to supporting her military husband!? There should be a law stating, "Any denial of benefits must be signed by BOTH spouse's in the presence of a benefits counselor." If not signed by BOTH, the payments would continue to be paid by automatic deduction fm pay. This has got to stop being found out "after the fact"!! FIX IT!!

  90. redleg13f | April 9, 2014 at 4:52 pm |

    As unfortunate as the circumstances may be, I can't agree with a lot of the opinions posted thus far for several reasons.
    First, SGLI is not an entitlement. It is a product offered by the Prudential Insurance Company, not the Government, at a reasonable rate to service members. Most importantly, this product does not have a "war clause". Just like anything else you are offered for sale by a private company, if you don't buy it, you don't get it.
    Second, this was an Officer in the United States Navy. An educated man. Who are we to second guess his choices? The fact that he decided to not pay the SGLI premium, as insignificant an amount we may think it is, was his decision to make. He chose to do something else with it. That he chose not to include his wife in this decision is not our business either.
    Third, even without the SGLI, the spouse is not destitute. The Navy didn't cut her loose and say "good luck". She received the gratuity, VA, and retirement benefits. Everything she is entitled to.
    Fourth, the article stats: "He was also the saver in his military home, squirreling away money for the future any way he could." That implies to me that he decided to take that money and do something else with it. IRA, TSP, stocks… who knows, maybe it went into a sock under his mattress. Again, not our business. While I doubt the $27 increments accumulated over the years will come close to $400K, it was his decision to make.
    Fifth, the Navy says it properly notified her. Since SGLI declination does not require the spouse to confirm that he/she is aware of that declination with a signature like SBP declination, they did not receive confirmation of the notification. I can only assume that the Lt. Commander was also in charge of going to the mailbox and distributing the family mail. Again, his decision.

    Shortly before the Iraq invasion my unit deployed. One of our team leaders, young and single, declined SGLI. The Chain of Command freaked out, trying to first "make" him take it, and when they couldn't do that "persuade" him to take it. "Think of your parents/siblings/etc" they said, but ultimately he said no. As an ADULT he made that decision and it was nobody else's place to tell him to do something different. His relationship with his family and reasons for declining were a private decision.
    Honestly, what the Chain of Command was really terrified of was exactly this situation; He is KIA and a grieving family goes ballistic because he didn't have life insurance. He came home okay, so it wasn't an issue.
    Perhaps the most important part of this story is COMMUNICATION. They should have at some point sat down and discussed exactly what would happen financially should one of them not come home one day. Especially a service member.

  91. Does anyone know how I check the paperwork if I am a former spouse and it was in the divorce decree that he chose SBP, but I have no way of knowing if he did. We do not talk at all, and I do not live by an Army Base. I live by a Navy Base. I do not know about any of this. I served 25 of the 36 years he served with him.

  92. Thank you for writing this article. It’s definitely not something on my radar but it will be in the future. I so appreciate you sharing your experience and speaking out for the benefit of other military families. Thank you and prayers to you and your family.

  93. For those who are stating that SGLI should be a requirement, think about how many people would complain about the military forcing them to purchase insurance from a private provider (it's a private company, not a government insurance program)! Everyone who enters the military is an adult and needs to make an adult decision regarding the purchase of insurance, period. A person may choose to purchase a completely different type of insurance plan from another company instead of purchasing SGLI, or not purchase anything at all. Adult decisions. I honestly can't believe that someone who is in the military would not purchase some type of insurance. Trust me, discussions concerning SGLI happen all the time with the servicemember (as evidenced by him turning it down on five separate occasions). It wasn't a quick decision made upon entering the military, it was made several times over the course of his career. Our Battalion had three servicemembers killed in the last year, and every one of them had SGLI. You know the saying – you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. Well, the military provides a way for servicemembers to purchase low cost term insurance to help provide for families if they are killed, but it's the servicemembers' responsibility to take it or leave it. I don't understand how we can get upset about our country not taking care of service members' families when, in fact, service members aren't choosing to take care of themselves using the programs provided. There are sooooo many other ways that we are not honoring commitments to servicemembers (hello cuts in retirement and healthcare, I'm looking at you), but this clearly isn't one of them. I do wish the best for this family and many, many blessings moving forward. I am in no way discounting the pain they are going through or the seriousness of their situation, and I applaud the wife's courage for sharing her story so that others don't find themselves in the same situation. I'm sure that I too would be looking for a way to challenge this if I were in her shoes and needed to provide for my family, even though I don't agree that it's right. Sad but true. We can all be outraged that she would consider challenging this, but if we're truly honest, I'm sure most of us would do the same in her situation.

  94. This problem can be fixed very easily. When a person retires from the military if he/she declines
    SBP (Survivor Benefit program) then the spouse must sign the document to acknowledge that she/he
    will not be entitled to any retired pay if the retired military person dies. Do the same for SGLI. If a
    active duty married person declines SGLI – the the spouse must also sign. Easily fixed.

  95. ET1 Godin | April 9, 2014 at 8:12 pm |

    Oh dear heavens, it's terrible to read about one of the two men who died /on my ship/ during our last deployment having made such an error and truly putting his family in jeopardy.

    Thank you for sharing this story. My heart goes out to you as much as it did when we first heard that the chopper went down while on deployment.

    Regards,
    ET1(SW/AW) Godin, RX Dept, RPC Div, CVN-68

  96. I am surprised this sort of thing is still happening. I remember stuff like that from more than 40 years ago. I know of ex spouses who received a members benefits many years after the divorce and remarriage and benefits going to parents who cruelly decided to keep the benefits leaving the spouse and children with nothing. It would not be that hard to provide members (and their spouses) with an annual audit of pay and benefits (including SGLI) that lists beneficiaries.

  97. The military is not responsible for notifying the spouse is upto the spouse to be proactive in matters like this. If you were in a civilian company you think they will notify you that your spouse refuse his benefits….unfortunately this happen to you and I hope you find away to be financially stable. Civilians have push many laws for soldiers and I think people should take more responsibility.

  98. Edward Soria | April 9, 2014 at 9:47 pm |

    Some of you need know that if your spouse is rated 100% Veterans Disability after he retires, and he paid into SBP a military insurance [ Survivor Benefits] since his military career until it was paid for, and he dies you will only get VA Disability Compensation , you will not be paid for SBP that your spouse paid for at least 30 years or so. My advice to all you out there in the military- do your home work and be informed just in case . You can receive the SBP money that your spouse paid for for over30 years- but no interest on that money. So again be informed and pay attention to the consequences.
    Soria35

  99. SusieNavyHomemaker | April 9, 2014 at 11:13 pm |

    There are tons of comments and after reading what seems like 30 of them, besides her husband’s short sighting, what about how she found out about his death. I hope someone is trying to manage that in a different manner. What a horrible discovery, that should’ve never happened.

  100. NotHerSGLI | April 9, 2014 at 11:24 pm |

    It is sad the husband died. Saying that I don't even see how this is an article. He was the one serving, it was his paycheck and his option to decline the coverage. If she or any other spouses are concerned why don't they take out life insurance on their service member.
    Too many spouses just want the money, how is she going to survive in the future? Get a job.. just an idea. I think a spouse getting a letter is what should be illegal. If they are married and don't know these things or haven't discussed them, then they shouldn't care when they don't receive them. SGLI contacting someone saying their husband declined coverage? How is that maintaining privacy? Especially since SGLI can list who ever the service member wants as a beneficiary. It doesn't have to be a spouse.

  101. SBP is paid with pre-tax dollars each month. My ENLISTED premium is a hefty $228 for spouse and 1 child until age 18. Survivor is entitled to 55% of retirement pension which is inflation protected.

  102. OldSailor32 | April 10, 2014 at 12:14 am |

    If he was this frugal they should have millions put away. I feel for the family's loss, but he didn't have to buy SGLI and did NOT need her permission to decline it. Many people make crappy decisions that others are hurt by… but wanting an insurance company to pay just because you wanted to get insurance after a car wreck just shouldn't happen.

  103. I am floored by the number of comments on this post. Obviously, this story has struck a real nerve with many of us. I pray that Theresa can find some comfort in knowing that her story has already spread so much awareness about the importance of working together financially as a married couple. I pray that no other family goes through this situation.

    While we are discussing insurance, I would like to take a minute to mention other insurance types. PLEASE make sure you are properly covered. Auto policies, life insurance, homeowners, and renters. I knew a family who had a devastating fire in their on-post quarters and lost EVERYTHING because they did not have renters insurance. They had 3 small children and had to rely on the kindness of friends and neighbors and charities to help them get the basics to set up a new household. And I know this is not an isolated case.

    PLEASE, take the time to work through financial issues TOGETHER, no matter how painful, boring, or tedious. In the long run, you will both sleep better at night and will be better protected should the worst occur.

  104. My prayers that you get some relief from this disaster. I am a divorced/retired spouse of 23 years plus of spousal service. I did a "deemed election" and thought all legal issues were covered to the letter in the divorce decree until Aug 10,2013 and the death of Former Spouse. His DD214 says SGLI. SGLI say he did not elect coverage when he retired. VA inform me that I have no benefits . SGLI,VGLI, FGLI all seem to be giving me the run around. When the member dies, we spouses die too! There is too much information printed about Spouse/Survival Benefits that does not work. God Bless you and children!

  105. I think the message Theresa is trying to convey is to make sure that you have enough life insurance to cover yourself in the event of a tragedy. BOTH parents must be involved in the estate planning. A term life policy does not cost that much and should be essential in your estate planning. LIfe insurance is always an afterthought, but you should look at this regularly, possibly yearly, to make sure you have enough. The SGLI is a bargain, but it may not be enough. Figure out how much it will cost you to pay off your bills, then you need to figure living, future college expenses, etc. I think the $400k for the SGLI is great, but it won't nearly cover the future costs of a spouse dying early and having children to raise.

  106. retiredusnnavywife | April 10, 2014 at 9:41 am |

    For the retired folks wondering if they signed up for SBP many years ago, have you logged in to https://mypay.dfas.mil to check your pay status? Your SBP election is there and even explains how much and to whom it will go.

  107. retiredusnnavywife | April 10, 2014 at 12:04 pm |

    Interesting reading regarding SBP:
    http://www.military.com/benefits/survivor-benefit

    Also, pls note….Every retiring member is automatically enrolled in SBP for full coverage unless the spouse consents in writing to reduced coverage or no coverage.

  108. Shelly Mosbacker | April 10, 2014 at 3:29 pm |

    Thank you Theresa for sharing your story. My heart is still so heavy from hearing such terrible news. My cousin, Jon, was with Landon that horrific day and my heart goes out to you and your family in a very real way! I've shared your story with my husband, who is a financial advisor, so that he can in turn share with many of his clients who choose not to pay for something that they believe they'll never need. So many times we hear stories like yours and if by sharing what you're going through changes just one person's life then the effort to convey the importance of life insurance is well worth it. You and your family, like Chrissy, Kaylie and Xander, are always in our thoughts and prayers. Please let us know if we can help in any way! Big hugs to you!!

  109. This shows that the definition of "independence" for women in general (& mil spouses in particular) must be reexamined. As a family unit, both spouses need to fully understand and participate in major decisions like life insurance, finances, etc…just assuming someone else is handling it is NOT the answer. It happens to housewives around the world, and I saw plenty of it in my previous career of insurance sales. If your children's and your security is important to you, be an active participant.

  110. Deborah Bays | April 11, 2014 at 1:17 pm |

    I'm widowed now for a little over 3 years…my husband was retired Army… he paid in to the SGLI and for two small insurances through the military… but I never have heard about a $100,000 death gratuity and monthly benefits from the DoD…what exactly is it and is that something that has to be requested and paid in to ??? thank you for any information on this…
    p.s. when I went to base to fill out the paperwork to get the SGLI STARTED AFTER MY HUSBAND PASSED AWA AND TALKED WITH THE MAN THAT WAS IN CHARGE OF HELPING ME…NOTHING WAS TOLD TO ME ABOUT THIS DEATH GRATUITY of $100,000 and monthly benefits from DoD…what is DoD ??? (sorry for the caps)
    thank you for any information that anyone gives to me on what I have written…

  111. My husband did the same thing when he got out times were tough and every cent mattered, although when I found out, I immediately wrote & tried to get his insurance reinstated, to no avail, this still bothers me tremendously to this very day, My husband, a disabled Marine veteran is alive several years later, but seeing that I helped him every step of the way, only to have our only son disabled in his early 20's, I was forced to take an early retirement to care for my family members, leading to detiorated health myself, but I worry what will happen to our future if something happens to him.

  112. Emery McCoy | April 11, 2014 at 2:43 pm |

    What do I need to do to add a beneficiary to my SGLI?

  113. I am glad that I kept mine after I left the US ARMY. Good luck. I hope it will work out for every one who this happened to.

  114. ProudSpouse2Soldier | April 12, 2014 at 12:01 pm |

    Addressing the MyPay and reading LES's….. Every time my husbands password is due to expire…he uses his CAC card (and there IS a password with that) and changes the password (this password is what He & I will use to access the account without CAC card). Then he writes it down and brings it home where I log it into a book we have. It is a pain in the butt to access MyPay and I can understand why many (especially spouses) do not access it regularly.

    Old school military like myself remember the days of pay day activities and actually going to the gym and getting paid & the LES and then bringing home both and either I or hubby looked over the LES…..then it went to LES's getting handed out at work (with the update of direct pay) and now it's all gone paperless and you go to MyPay. (and looks possibly still snail mail hard copy…which I am not familiar with)

    Don't be so critical of the ones who find it a pain to access the LES's…it is a pain….
    And even if she read the LES's religiously….if she never knew to look for SGLI on there….it wouldn't stand out to inquire. (My son when he joined the Army and was signing all the various paperwork…actually thought the SGLI came with the enlistment and was free…. not knowing who to put he ended up putting his fiancée as the person who would receive it.)

    My husband had a jump pay issue once where it was suppose to be stopped (his job and location didn't have jump opportunities….which I honestly didn't realize) and me not realizing it was suppose to stop didn't think inquire as I continued to see it there (and he was really off the grid so we just didn't have the opportunity to talk about it) If he had seen his LES….he would have immediately noticed it….me…I saw it and didn't think there was something wrong with it.

    I also think the newer generation of soldier might not be so aware of the LES and checking it and how important it can be….. since it's gone paperless. And they might not have dealt with pain issues (at least as of yet) to know to look at the LES. I have met wives who do not even know what a LES is…..

    I have been enlisted in the military, married in the military, widowed in the military and remarried in the military since 1990….. even I get caught off guard by something that probably I should have known about…. My husband who passed actually split the SGLI with his parents and I…..and I had NO idea. This was back in 1999. And then when I remarried in 2007 I was there in DEERS and had all this paperwork to sign that I had not done when I was first married to my husband who passed…..so things changed and got better with spouses being more aware….but back in 1999…I did not know he split the SGLI.

    All we can do is take what applies to us as a lesson and sit with our spouses and ensure we know the deal….. (and on the soldier side…he may not fully understand everything either….)

    I witnessed a new wife receive almost nothing (but Social Security) because the husband didn't remove the ex wife from key things….like SGLI….young or new to the military soldiers do not realize how important it is to stay up to date on certain things. As silly as it sounds….the soldier even though married before with that spouse had been added to the system….he didn't think to take her out of the systems upon divorce and 2 years later gets remarried and shortly thereafter deployed and was KIA.

    My son is about to do a 6 month deployment and I went over several things that was NOT told to him in his pre-deployment brief…. which was very discouraging. Married soldiers where briefed on SGLI business but the single soldiers like my son….barely touched on…he had his girlfriend on his SGLI…who at the time of signing the paperwork was his fiancée….but that has since changed to ex girlfriend….he didn't even think to change it.

    Bottom line….don't be critical….. not everyone is aware of everything….there are a lot of in's and out's…..

  115. I, too, sympathize with her predicament, but I agree with other comments about others and or their spouses paying into SGLI (as I did for 26 years) and her collecting it when not paying into it. The saving grace is, she IS collecting government subsidy in the form of a percentage of his base pay, his social security and VA benefits (and she DESERVES every dollar of it!)
    I know she would give up every penny to have her husband back!
    Theresa, if you read this — I wish you and your family God speed.

  116. I think many spouses "trust" their husbands to do the right thing and that is to protect his wife and children. I think she should receive the SGLI benefits. I believe had she been informed accordingly about her husband's declination, she would have convinced him to reconsider. Personnel office's failure to inform her should not relieve them of providing what she is, I believe, entitle to receive.

  117. VietVwt'68 | April 15, 2014 at 9:27 am |

    Heart breaking story. Just a thought about being notified. When I started to withdraw my TSP funds not only did my wife have to sign off on it but we had to have the paperwork notorized. How I know why we had to do it.

  118. Jenny in VA – why do you think the SGLI should continue after the servicemember retires? Actually, the SGLI coverage remains effective up 180 days after retirement or getting out of the Navy. The servicemember has the option to convert the SGLI to the VGLI upon retirement. Afterall, SGLI is short for "Servicememen's Group Life Insurance" and VGLI is short for "Veterans Group Life Insurance". The best bet for all retirees is to purchase a civilian insurance policy.

  119. God Bless you and your family…Sorry for your loss and I can't imagine the pain she must be in.

  120. This is a husband/wife/family issue and decision. I understand her needing to be angry at someone (navy) however, he made this decision for his family. The SGLI is not some big secret. The questions is: "What happens to US if something happens to you?" For whatever reasons, he refused 5 times to provide for them and that is very tragic.

    I hope that if she is able to receive the benefit, others who lost out will get them, too.

  121. Kathleen Mills | November 25, 2014 at 11:55 pm |

    “They say that regardless that it is law that I be notified, the failure of notification does not affect the validity of any coverage election,”

    Failure of notification is in the event the spouse moves and cannot be located to receive the spousal notification. The DoD must notify by law, by not doing so this spouse has incurred damages of $400000.00. In no way can the DoD not follow the law. Please see my Facebook site for The Abandoned American Military Spouse.

    My question is which agency will hold the DoD accountable for not following the law?

  122. "If the service member is married, and names someone other than a spouse or child as beneficiary, then the Secretary of the relevant branch of service is required to make a “good faith effort” to notify the spouse in writing. 38 U.S.C. § 1967(f)(3), (4). Failure to notify, however, does not void the service member’s designation of a new beneficiary. Id. § 1967(f)(4)."

    The language in the SGLI needs changed. The federal law (SGLI) will always over-ride any state law. NO ONE is protected. No divorce contract, no restraining order preventing beneficiary changes, and no court order can prevent a change without notification unless SGLI is re-written. "Good faith" is vague and subjective.

  123. Pauline Albert | January 11, 2015 at 5:02 pm |

    I too did not know that the spouse did not have to be informed about the SGLI. My husband is a deceased Army veteran and the same thing happen to me. I wish I knew at the time because it is upsetting to know that I had no say in the matter. I wish I could join with Theresa on her lawsuit—it should be a class action due to several other military wives have the same situation regarding this issue.

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