WASHINGTON - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is extending retroactive traumatic injury benefits to Servicemembers who suffered qualifying injuries during the period Oct. 7, 2001 to Nov. 30, 2005, regardless of the geographic location where the injuries occurred.
"Now all of our nation's Servicemembers who suffered severe traumatic injuries while serving their country can receive the same traumatic injury benefits, regardless of where their injury occurred," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "We at VA appreciate the efforts of Congress and the President to improve benefits for our troops."
Effective Oct. 1, the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) Traumatic Injury Protection benefit, known as TSGLI, will be payable for all qualifying injuries incurred during this period. This retroactive benefit is payable whether or not the Servicemember had SGLI coverage at the time of the injury.
The Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2010, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in October of 2010, removes the requirement that injuries during this period be incurred in Operations Enduring or Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF). This is welcome news for the many Servicemembers who suffered serious traumatic injuries while serving stateside or in other areas outside of OEF/OIF during this time period, but until now have not been eligible for TSGLI.
TSGLI provides a payment ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 to Servicemembers sustaining certain severe traumatic injuries resulting in a range of losses, including amputations; limb salvage; paralysis; burns; loss of sight, hearing or speech; facial reconstruction; 15-day continuous hospitalization; coma; and loss of activities of daily living due to traumatic brain injury or other traumatic injuries.
National Guard and Reserve members who were injured during the retroactive period and suffered a qualifying loss are also eligible for a TSGLI payment, even if the cause was not related to military service, such as a civilian automobile accident or severe injury which occurred while working around their home.
National Guard and Reserve members make up more than 40 percent of the total force which has been deployed since 9-11. Those who are no longer in the National Guard or Reserves can also apply as long as their injury occurred while they were in service.
"I am extremely pleased that these total force warriors who defend our freedoms are getting the recognition and benefits they have rightfully earned in service to our nation," added Under Secretary for Benefits Allison A. Hickey.
VA is working with the Department of Defense to publicize this change in the TSGLI law. Additionally, all of the branches of service are identifying any claims previously denied because the injury was not incurred in OEF/OIF and reaching out to those individuals.
Although applications are currently being accepted by branch of service TSGLI offices, benefits will not be paid until Oct. 1, 2011, the effective date of the law.
For more information or to apply for a TSGLI payment, Servicemembers and Veterans should go to http://www.insurance.va.gov/sgliSite/TSGLI/TSGLI.htm or contact their branch of service TSGLI Office (contact information available at above link).