She Had No Idea He Turned Down SGLI


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.”


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’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for 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, 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.
  • laurafshack

    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.

    • KD

      This story has sparked conversation in my home that we have never had and I hope it saves one person from enduring the added pain that Theresa has had to deal with since losing her dear husband. The idea of the beneficiary having to be present to sign if benefits are declined is brilliant. Thank you for being so brave, Theresa, from one aviator wife to another.

    • Jamie

      The spouse does not have a right to SGLI, the member can designate anyone they want too as a beneficiary.

      • Marci

        Yes but would it should be required that if you have a spouse or dependants whom ever you choose should be notified because someone is going to be left to support them or carry the load alone.

        • X01877

          Not so. I feel real bad for the spouse, but legally she has no rights on SGLI coverage, those are his rights. No other insurance company would send her a message if the husband were to cancel the policy. What if the husband would have left all the money to his brother, she would not get notification. Also, requiring the beneficiary to be present during the election period is not practical. What if tthe wife is at another location or it’s an 18 year enlistee with mom back at home of record. I feel real bad for the spouse and think everyone should get SGLI, but if he chose not to elect coverage she should not be entitled to SGLI.

          If the military wants to change it, they should get a notorized letter from the spouse declining coverage during the election period.

          • Bobbi

            Army regs require a letter to be sent to the spouse if the service membera chooses someone other than the spouse as the beneficary!

          • x01877

            Army regulations are not law. What I am saying, is technically regulations are guidance and recommendations. If I were the insurance company, I would say: “That is an Army (possibly) DoD regulation which by public law XXX company is not required to follow.” The Army/DoD may be liable for not enforcing the notification process, but I would say taking that stance is hard 1) Can the Navy prove a letter was mailed on a certain date 2) Its hard to sue the DoD, you have to show there was extreme negligence- thats why its hard to sue when they mess up at a military clinic. I know for #1- my wife always pawns the paperwork to me because she doesn’t want to get bored with the stuff, so long as I keep the pile in the safe labeled – in case something happens.

            I will tell you and any other SM/Spouse, folks should always consider having more than SGLI, to include a mix term and whole life insurance. One is a back up (term) the other is an investment that if need be you can pull from in an emergency.

          • mkmjjmmom

            I agree with everything you said except for the whole life insurance. There are much better avenues for emergency savings, and whole life insurance is comparatively way more expensive. Dave Ramsey explains it much better than I can:

    • L.G.

      My ex husband was required by his command when he deployed to make sure his SGLI was current and that beneficiaries were chosen. I never knew it was optional, and neither did he.

    • Retired MSG

      I’m sure this has already been stated Laura, but spouses do not have a “right” to be the beneficiary on an SGLI. The service member chooses who is the beneficiary, how much and if, there is one.

      • This is not about assign to benenfits, retired MSG. This is about NONE, AT ALL!!

      • dbeasley

        What if like in my case it is written into the divorce contract that he will keep me as beneficiary and do nothing to allow it to be cancelled. Can I fight it?

    • Jay

      Allowed to happen? The service member DECLINED coverage – IN WRITING – 5 TIMES. Yes, its the Navy’s job to notify her officially… Not only did he decline it 5 times HE never TOLD HER. On top of that he ALLOWED her to believe she was covered.

      At the end of the day HE made a choice – HE didn’t tell her – SHE is living with the consequences. Hopefully his legacy and HER BRAVERY to share this will encourage more military families to have the RIGHT conversations.

    • Monica

      I totally Agree with You! Also as a Retired Member it is a Option as Well. Which I became a where of as when the Navy Over Medicated the Father of my 5 children for PTSD. He Was 44 and he Never woke up again. November 17th he died. November 18th we lost the house to the bank. In 30 days we were moved out. Now at 48 I am attempting to go back to school again. It’s been quiet the Journey.
      Really brought my kids and I close together. I just wish I would have been notified and had to sign as well. I would have made it mandatory to keep it..

      • Brenda

        Monica, did u get a lawyer? My husband never signed the paperwork because he too was heavily medicated and died at the age of 33.

      • Brenda

        Monica, did u get a lawyer? My husband never signed the paperwork because he too was heavily medicated and died at the age of 33.

      • Guest

        How does one lose a house 1 day after a spouse passes away??? You guys where already in default by the time he passed so don’t blame lack of SGLI on losing your house.

    • H. Bevis

      Maybe this is the fire that gets things rolling again. I worked for the USAF for over 30 years and when I retired I had to take my wife to work and she had to sign the papers that said that she knew what was going on.

    • Navy YNC

      Unfortunately, the requirement to be notified is a Navy requirement, not Prudential’s. I agree that this is a terrible situation but the life insurance policy company (prudential) has no requirement that the spouse be notified. Rarely is that required by a life insurance policy. Ms. Jones might have a case for suing the Navy though?

      • Holly

        In my opinion, regardless of ther insurance company and their requirements when it comes to the military family, the spouse should be notified if they are not the beneficiary and should also be notified if SGLI is declined. Granted, as spouses, we may not be entitled to it per se or the notification as some have argued because a typical company like prudential would not notify the spouse. ..BUT, we are not the typical couple nor are we the typical family who do the every day typical jobs. We ARE the MILITARY FAMILY and WE put our lives on the line every day alongside our spouses, we fight on the home front to keep our families in tact in ways a typical family would not, we wrestle with being a single parent because our spouse is hosted away to save the world. …not because we signed up for it but because we are the MILITARY FAMILY and that’s just what we do. The military regulations are not built for the typical family as prudential’s regulations are which is why the typical family would be up a creek without a paddle because sometimes it seems to be the intent of the typical insurance companies to allow their members to fall between the cracks so they don’t have to pay. .. but the military regulations are built for the military families so NO ONE falls between the cracks and NO ONE IS LEFT BEHIND!

        • x01877

          Holly I agree with you, I don’t think there is much luck for Mrs Jones, but I think that the policy should change. I should be:
          1) SGLI full coverage should be automatic for everyone and you would have to opt out if you don’t want it.
          2) If you have dependents (wife) you should get a notarized letter from either the wife or commander that you understand the implications should you pass away. I mention the commander portion because if I am divorcing my spouse I would not want her to win the lottery. Hopefully a commander would tell the SM to just have the benefits go to him parents.
          3) If you have dependents (children/other) you should get a notarized letter from the commander understanding the consequences.

          • guest

            In regards to number 1. It is already automatic, you have to physically go in and request it to be dropped, and fill out a ton of paperwork to get it dropped. In regards to 2. it is not a commanders place to get involved with financial matters with a family as long as it is not currently effecting the soldiers job performance. I don’t understand why everyone thinks a commander should be a babysitter.

          • x01877

            It is the Command/Commands responsibility to ensure SMs make financially sound decisions. It effects readiness when a SM is deployed and concerned with monetary issues at home. This no different then medical, marital, and substance abuse concerns.

            This doesn’t mean that the young captain is solely responsible for this matter. Often it is delegated. I remember when platoon sergeants would go down with new soldiers to used dealerships to ensure they don’t get fleeced. There are many ways to accomplish this task: financial closes, conversations during periodic counseling sessions, FRG meetings, etc.

            The commander/command has ultimate responsibility for what goes right and wrong in a unit. Cammanders don’t babysit, they lead.

          • the first mel

            The Commands can provide information and guidance but they can’t force people to make the right decisions. If they have to hand-hold and hover to ensure that bad things don’t happen, then they would be babysitters. It is each person’s responsibility to make rational decisions that do not bite them in the a$$ later. You reap what you sow and in this case his decision was the wrong one.

          • guest

            And it sounds like this command gave him the information and the opportunity that was needed to make a decision….5 times in fact. A commander cannot, and should not, hand hold and babysit the soldiers in their unit, they are all adults and capable of making adult decisions. If they need help fine, be there, but it’s not their job to play daddy in every decision in an individuals life.

          • guest

            He was a grown and educated man. HE, not the command, was responsible to take care of his family in this matter.

        • Chuckster

          What’s the old saying…”If the Army wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one”!

    • czelie

      I guess there’s a lot of confusion as to how life insurance works. The “courtesy” given to the spouse of ANYTHING doing with the SGLI is more than what should be needed. There is no reason why the government or even the servicemember needs to tell the spouse about it. Should the spouse and servicemwmber talk about these things? Sure, probably but that’s between the married couple. Spouses overstep their themselves all of the time because they think they have some sort if right to certain things when they really don’t. Is it a shame that this lady didn’t get her $400k? Yeah sure but there is no reason why this isn’t partially her own fault for not discussing life insurance with her husband.

      • Charis

        A service member, an officer in this case, who personally chooses to decline SGLI 5 times during the course of his military career is not a reflectioof failure or lack off leadership from a Commander. It is not the military’s or Commanders job to ensure that service members are making responsible choices for their family’s welfare. Theresa’s spouse failed in this regard, not the Navy.

    • gottalovelife

      My husband retires this year and I am REQUIRED to come to a SBP brief without my husband and be fully briefed on this. I actually am the one that makes the choice. He has nothing to do with the decision. And I am sure this new method is because of past issues.

      • Chuckster

        YOU’RE not REQUIRED to do anything.

    • eileen

      I too was not informed of my late husband’s decisions regarding SGLI and the forfeiture of SBP. That was 30 years ago and I felt like I was begging. John passed away from asbestos exposure at a very young age and of course one could not sue the Federal Government. So I, too, was also left with a small pension. His Life Insurance at that time was $20,000. I think that is SGLI, right?

    • anita marade

      My name is Anita and my mother encountered a similar situation when my father died. I recently contacted the congressman’s office who informed me of services that my mother, a military spouse can apply for. Virginia Department of Veterans Services may be able to assist her. I am utilizing this office for the surviving spouse to receive a pension. The Norfolk office contact no. is 757 455 0814. Also, Mr. Cox’s e-mail is listed as This office can also pay costs up to
      $1400 towards the burial if the loss is within two years as well as the surviving spouse’s pension. This is separate from the military survivor’s benefits. Please contact the Virginia Dept. of Veteran Affairs for your state. Also, for guidance please contact Mr. Hassan Cox at 757 455 0814. My prayers are with your family.

  • Cyndia Rios-Myers

    Oh my Lord. Poor woman!!!

  • Amy_Bushatz

    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.

    • Amy_Bushatz

      I want to add — Mel’s comment was really tame and didn’t say anything nasty at all. But it did question him a little … so I thought it best to remove it. Mel is a great reader and commenter :-)

      • the first mel

        Amy, can you tell my why my comment was the only one out of the 240 comments that has been deleted? My comment was nice compared to many of the comments I have seen. In fact, if you are so worried about her feelings getting hurt, you should delete the majority of the comments. It seems someone may have an issue with me and I’m not buying your complimentary comment above. It was total BS.

        • Amy_Bushatz

          I’ve actually deleted over 100 comments if you can believe it … and having a hard time keeping up with them, honestly. I honestly don’t have any issue with you whatsoever. Sorry you feel the need to say that.

    • Jenb

      Thank you Amy! It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. She will help a lot of people this way.
      I have seen first hands where page 2 info was incorrect. Please everyone make sure it is correct. Also navy legal foes wills and Power of attorney docs for free. Get them done! It is not ok to leave your spuse and family with more to deal with while they are grieving your death. Make it a priority.

      • AD PS1

        The page 2 doesn’t really have much to do with the SGLI, there is only one block on the page 2 that the states whether the servicemember has elected to participate in the SGLI. The SGLI is something that the servicemember decides who and how much. Does not have to be the spouse, can be anyone the servicemeber elects. I do agree the the spouse should be been told that there was no SGLI elected. I have seen this happen way to many times and it’s too bad but if the servicemember doesn’t pay into the insurance there is no entitlement/ The servicement is required to update his page 2 every year and then also prior to a deployment. The page 2 is a document to lists spouse, children, parents and children and all of these addresses in case of notification in case of death or emergency. Has nothing to do with SGLI election. I am an Active Duty Navy person who works in a Navy Personnel Office and do this type of thing every day of the week. I have been stationed on ships and aviation squadrons, overseas and stateside shore. So sorry for her loss!

    • Jenn

      Most offices or their websites will have pre appointment worksheets. It is not a painful process and they are helpful.
      Please spread the word!

    • H. Bevis

      I agree with what you people did.

  • Amy_Bushatz

    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

    • Christine

      Good for you! I am horrified by some of the comments I saw on the facebook page. This is not a time for judgments. It is a time for support.

      • Mary Spurgeon

        My father served 28 years in army. He was a CSM and served in Desert Storm. He had some mental issues after his return and opted to retire. My father passed away at 47 after three months retirement . My mom found out that my dad had stopped all life insurance, which I assume was the VSGLI. She got very little and had two children at home. She fought it and she got nothing. My dad was a good man but Desert Storm destroyed him. If he had been in a better state of mind, he wouldn’t of done that.So is that my Mom’s fault for not knowing?

    • RCB

      I ask you what is the truth in this matter? Are people supposed to tip toe around the truth here? Her husband made a poor decision and it is costing his family, who on top of grieving for him, are without the financial security that helps through this terrible time. Maybe someone not mincing words, and taking a hard line will be just what is needed to stop another service member from declining SGLI 5 times.

      • Amy_Bushatz

        But Theresa is reading these comments, and out of respect for her and her loss we are going to delete things we consider to be disrespectful.

        • x01877

          I wish a lot of blogs would do what you do.

    • Jack


    • JArnold (ret USAF)

      Amy, Having read some of the other posts by readers I can only offer up the following advice: (1) Appeal to the Service Secretary for a waiver to policy…retirement pay and benefits are not law–they are policy and exceptions can be made. Write and ask for a reply; (2) Contact your Congressman AND Senators…pressure from the Hill works wonders; and (3) Hire a lawyer (many will work cases like these pro-bono or for a very low fee) and MAKE the service prove you declined (or spouse declined) a benefit, etc. The military departments are spring loaded to say “no” for every request that comes to them–often without reading the entire document. Ask the former commander if they will help–get some stars involved and it may turn things around.

      For those with young kids…if you don’t want the full SBP coverage (it is costly at 6.6% of the retirement pay), for a few pennies, you can elect SBP for the kids only which will provide THEM payments until age 23–it is divided equally among each child.

      I can truly say they USAF did a great job of briefing my wife on SBP and, in fact, they had her come see them to view the briefing get information and told me to stay out of the room so as not to provide “undue influence”. we had already made our minds up having seen what happened to my mom. When my dad passed away she did not get SBP as they had declined it.

      Final note, SGLI is something the service member elects and, ladies if you marry someone after he has joined–you need to bring the subject up as we guys, don’t think of such mundane things.

      • AD PS1

        The servicemenber elects what he wants, usually in his own handwritting, then signs the SGLI form. The page 2 is verified on an annual basis and the servicemember is required to sign it after he verifies that it is still correct. That would be the proof that he declined SGLI coverage. The SBP election is something all together different. That is when a servicemember retires. The spouse, if marriaed, has to personally appear before a notary or the CCC (Navy talk for the Command Career Counselor) to either elect or not to elect the SBP, then the spouse will sign the SBP election form. SBP also comes from the servicemembers retirement check every month.

      • Holly

        What is SBP?

        • Retiered USN Guest

          SRB is Survivor Benefit Plan. It is an official form used to elect who, if anyone, and how much, if anything will get the retirees pension after he/she dies.

          SBP works like this: If you elect 50% for example, If your retirement pay is $1200.00 a month, SBP is taken out of that, so all you are getting every month would be $600.00, the other 50% or $600.00 goes into your SBP fund (like a non-interest drawing savings account) to be held there until the retiree dies. When the retiree dies, SBP will start to be paid out the the SBP beneficiary – over time, not a lump sum.

          I personally elected NOT to enroll in the SBP becasue of this. I can put 50% of my own pension into a “savings account: and use it at will if I want. And what happens if the beneficary dies before the retiree? The money is absorbed back into the federal government, the retiree doesn’t get it. Think very carefully before electing this SRB option, it may not be exactly what you are thinking is it or what it will do for you in the long run.

  • catmatmc

    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.

    • Crystal

      You going to make it girl, I feel sorry for you loss. The haters, you got to understand her man was very care about his family. I just think military families need have back up plan no matter what happens. God Bless.

  • tripletmom04

    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.

    • Christy

      Actually, you don’t know what you would be feeling or doing, you only assume what blessedly have no idea of. I say that as someone who’s dealt with comments such as yours, but in the loss of a child (oh I could never survive…I’d just die….I’d kill myself, etc). What we THINK we’d do and feel is a whole other ball game when we are actually IN that position.
      I’m guessing Theresa’s dealt with anger, right along with everything else, but how is anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness going to help and what will she be teaching her boys? That because Daddy made a poor choice, thinking he was helping their family, they’re to grow up with mommy blaming him and being unforgiving to his memory. She seems to be sucking it up, trying to change things for OTHER spouses and hopefully herself, and to educate spouses and military members. Tomorrow’s not promised, even if our military spouse is not in combat. SGLI is inexpensive and it’s definitely one thing that should be discussed with the spouse, no matter how hard of a conversation.

    • AD PS1

      Yeah, and since the servicemember gets paid on the 1st and the 15th of every month the price tag for 400K is $13.50 a pay period.

  • pens4jc

    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.

    • Retired MSG

      Just so you know, simply notifying the spouse by mail, which is what is required, doesn’t mean the spouse will actually be notified. I declined my SGLI because I had other financial vehicles that were better than SGLI, and the cmdr notified my spouse as required, but I was the one who got the mail out of the mailbox and simply threw it away. (For full disclosure, my husband already knew I declined and was ok with it.) Both spouses live at the same address, so simply mailing a letter doesn’t mean anything.

      • Melody

        I thought that, too. Who was picking up the mail? Sounds like he may have been handling that type of ‘duty’ at home. He may have tossed out the letters just so she wouldn’t worry. After all, he thought he was invincible.

    • Retired USN Guest

      It is the husbands income whether we like that fact or not. It is, was, his money and he can do whatever he wants to with it.

  • Yvonne

    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.

    • Tonya G

      While this is sad it is the service members responsibility to inform spouse of declination in coverage. Not the personnel office. The personnel office only has to notify members CO when spouse is not the beneficiary for the death gratuity pay. MANY service members decline SGLI. It is not required. Many have other forms of life insurance. Also there is a premium for SGLI so while I do sympathize with this family how can she be entitled to something her husband declined and was not paying for? He chose not to have coverage. His decision.

    • James

      Whose to say they didn’t notify her 5 times. Notification is they send a letter addressed to her so either she did not get the letters or her husband intercepted these letters and opened them himself. Don’t put the blame on the personnel office but rather where it should be with the service member. It is unfortunate and sad that it happened but I would guess that it happens quite often.

    • NavySpouse

      She was a FRG member and active in the military community(command) she was educated and knew what was offered/entitled to.

    • David

      Thanks for speaking out and up
      Someone ,an admin worker, did not do what they were
      Suppose to do .
      Training follow up —– follow up training it must never stop.!!!!
      This woman and her husbands sons
      Must be taken care of .

      • Debbie

        No, David, it was her husband’s responsibility. . . .and we’ll never know why he didn’t tell her.

    • AD PS1

      Not neccessarily true Yvonne. The personnel office does send out the letter to whatever address is listed on the page 2. It’s a canned form letter that is to info the spoouse of non-election and is only a courtesy. The spouse cannot do anything to change the election only the servicemember can do that.

    • Mack

      I agree with your comments on this. And with such, one would think hat failure to show notification of the benefit declination should afford her SOME recourse.

  • 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

    • Yvonne

      Thankfully minimal SGLI was not an option when my husband passed away. I did receive the SGLI along with VA benefits. We did not have children, so I can only imagine how hard things must be for Theresa. My advice is to follow up with the VA to make sure that she receives the full DIC payments for herself and for her children. Follow up with Tricare to see if you can continue to get benefits for free for a set period of time (I got 3 years). I know that doesn’t help long term but I learned you take it day by day and you will make it thru this terrible loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family!

  • Lisa

    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.

    • Amy_Bushatz

      Lisa thank you SO much for stopping by and sharing your story. I am so sorry for your loss :-(

  • Toni Castor

    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.

    • Amy_Bushatz

      Toni thank you so much for reading and sharing your story — my heart breaks for you. I am so sorry for your loss :-(

    • Sonia

      Toni castor? I’ve heard of the surviving spouse keeping the retirement benefits but that was long ago and they were married the 20 years he was active duty. Why were you not able to keep his retirement??

      • guest

        Probably never paid into SBP at retirement

    • wade

      Soxcial Security will pay if the child is in college. Check it out.

      • Dee

        Social security death benefits end at age 18…only extended if still in high school.

    • Hazel Stelpflug

      Toni, my heart aches for you. My husband did not want to take the SBP as he thought he would live forever, wrong …. he was killed in a car accident shortly after he retired. I did not know he had not taken the SBP, nor was I included in any of his out-processing meetings nor was I informed of my rights as his wife that I had to agree to decline the SBP. I was at work, he came to my office & asked me to sign off on his ” retirement ” papers, I signed without reading any of them. As he was killed in a car accident and not from any of his disability ( medical ) military related problems I received nothing from his VA, retirement and of course the SBP. I applied for help from the Army and the VA but was told I had no recourse, there was nothing the government do for me ! SORRY ! He passed on the 5th of Nov. and I had to return his retirement check to the Army, they sent me his pay for five days of Nov. and a thank you letter for being a good supportive wife. That is what I received after being with him through out his military career. I wish you the best and pray for you and your daughter, may God grant you strength to endure.

    • X01877

      You indirectly brought up a concern. I am pretty knowledgeable on my AD entitlements, but I have never had to think about retirement benefits and entitlements.

      The only reason I have put thought in them is because I am stationed overseas and get AFN commercials. I would how many other servicemember’s are clueless until year 18-20?

      Maybe this is something tha FRGs should discuss?

    • X01877

      You indirectly brought up a concern. I am pretty knowledgeable on my AD entitlements, but I have never had to think about retirement benefits and entitlements.

      The only reason I have put thought in them is because I am stationed overseas and get AFN commercials. I would how many other servicemember’s are clueless until year 18-20?

      Maybe this is something that FRGs should discuss?

    • AD PS1

      What you signed was the SBP election form NOT the SGLI. The SGLI can be converted to VGLI after retirment.

      • Guest

        Bear in mind though, that it can only be converted IF you can afford it. It is VERY expensive, so most cannot.

    • John

      How do you loose his VA and SSI if you have a child home you should be collecting everything. Or did some administration either this one or the one before take all those benefits away from everyone???

    • Ro

      You lost all those benefits?? What are we suppose to do to prevent that? My husband is retired, combat wounded. I have 3 children. This concerns me.

    • civilian

      God can get us all through.All widows,not just military wives learn a new independence.For the most part the military families are taken care of.Not so much in the civilian world.Thankfyl for family and friends.

  • kim

    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.

    • kim

      ooooops….**house= out

    • Amy_Bushatz

      Kim without knowing specifics of your situation I’m sorry I can’t offer any advice. I am so sorry for your loss :-(

    • Tris

      When he retired did he opt for the VGLI?

    • Donna Schmidt

      There is another “benefit” that may be available to you. It’s called Veteran Spousal Support. There are stipulations and requirements like everything else, but it is there. My father passed away last February and left my mother, who is 85, on her own. Come to find out, he declined Survivor Benefits to save a few bucks a month and truthfully, they thought my mom would be the first to pass (she is 8 yrs older). His retirement ceased along with anything else he was receiving. Call the DOD Veteran Widow/ers representative and they can tell you if you qualify or not.

    • Genia

      You need to contact your nearest Marine retiree liaison. If your husband received a newsletter as a retiree, contact info should be inside. It’s called the Afterburner for AF retirees. I have no idea what the name of the retired Marine newsletter is.
      If you did not marry him while he was on active duty and/or married for at least 10 yrs then no, you are not eligible for his pension . I know of no programs that help with your house either. However, if you have a mortgage, contact the lender and let them know your spouse died and want to apply for a modified mortgage.
      You should also post this question on the Stars & Stripes & Facebook pages. You’ll probably receive a lot more answers there. Good luck!

    • J. Thornton

      Same thing happened to me. I finally won my case for Service Related Death for my deceased husband after three and a half years of claims and multiple appeals against the VA . DO NOT QUIT OR GIVE UP! I wrote a book about this journey in my life and statements like yours above is why I decided to do it . The book is expressly for assisting soldiers families.
      “In Harm’s Way” by Jane Smith Thornton
      Purchase @ as a paperback or eBook

      • J. Miller

        The emotional baggage that the fight carries, is devastating when surmounted with suicide!

        Why should suicide be less than what the individual has decided that the VA says “He did not die of his injury” well his injury finalized what he believed, and it is time the VA pays attention to why suicide finalizes the escape from fighting anymore/

    • retiredusnnavywife

      Kim, to add to Genia’s reply here are the service newsletters:

      Air Force’s Afterburner
      Navy’s Shift Colors
      Army’s Echoes
      Marine Corps’ Semper Fi

  • Gregg

    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.

    • Kristen

      You know, the man gave his life for his country. So whether they decide if that life is worth giving some insurance $ to his family or not, I think this is one of those situations for which if you dont have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.

      • Gregg

        And yet he and I put on the uniform so that ALL can say their opinions. Not some. Not the popular but all. I said nothing that wasn’t nice. You may not like what I say and that’s fine. But your opinions are just as mine are; our own.

    • wade

      Unfortunately this is not the Navy’s fault. If that payment is made it will set a precedent that will cost millions.

    • Rose

      I am saddened that you could be so ignorant, this woman has two precious babies to take care of and you would be “saddened” if she was to win her appeal and receive money she would need to take care of her children??? I can only hope that karma doesn’t put your family in a similar situation. As far as the letters they were to be sent to the spouse, meaning addressed and delivered to the spouse not the service member, and the notice is so she can protect herself if her spouse were to decline the benefit, especially since a number of life insurance policies will not cover death while in combat/war.
      ***Teresa my thoughts and prayers with you and your boys and I hope the Navy comes through for you, especially since your husband dedicated his life to this country and ultimately lost his life for it.

      • billy unare

        This is a terrible tragedy and he may seem callus but karma or not Gregg is probably right.

        The Navy most likely sent a letter to the house and it was discarded or went unread in the piles of junk mail we all receive. The wife is saying she was not notified but his has not been proven according to what I read so far. I wouldn’t say she for sure got it either. (I’ve worked for the US govt and I know how that can be) I just don’t know how she is going to prove they never mailed it. Perhaps they will require something signed in the future but that is progress for the future and not for this one mom.

        Gregg may seem harsh but it would set a precedent that they can’t afford to pay her without having paid those premiums unless they can prove she wasn’t notified by mail, which I think could be difficult.

        How many of us could send her $5?

        WE can step up and help raise all or some of $400k to help this family but unless she can prove she wasn’t notified of the cancelled option I think she won’t be entitled to anything (from a legal stand point). Gregg might be right there donating beside you Rose.

        Now shake hands and realize there’s two or more sides to just about anything. Unless you have a saintly life karma might be coming after you (and me) too. :-)

      • Melody

        I have to disagree Rose! He CHOSE not to have the insurance so now why must they pay the $400,000? Yes, there are kids to feed, clothe, etc. The kids should be entitled to social security until they’re 18. There’s also the $100,000 this mother already received. That’s a decent ‘chunk’ compared to so many women who lose their husbands and receive NOTHING. As long as this family is frugal, they can survive with they’ve already received and would continue to receive through Social Security, plus, perhaps a part-time job. Once these companies begin to make ‘exceptions’, where does it end?

      • AD PS1

        Rose, it’s not the Navy that administers the SGLI, it’s a separate insurance, so the Navy that is responsible to issue out the money.

        • AD PS1

          Meant to say it’s not the Navy that is responsible to issue out the money.

      • Ro

        Well said Rose

      • x01877

        Rose, I too would have to disagree strong. I would be a bad precedent and here is why. If Ms Jones, is award SGLI, then I will cancel mine with the expectation the Army will do the same and I would invest my $27 in a USAA Mutual Fund. So now we have half the military canceling their SGLI and the fund becomes bankrupt.

        I truly feel bad for her and would hope one of the military support organizations would give her a check, but it doesn’t make it right that he took his $27 and invested it/ spent it and now wants the benefits.

        It would should a bad message to SMs.

  • Carmen

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

    • apartystudio

      I’ve never look at my husband’s LES. I don’t think that is uncommon so I’m not sure why this would surprise you.

      • Retired MSG

        Really? You’ve never been interested in at least his leave balance?? Check to make sure the pay is correct? Check on pay raises? My spouse and I checked our LES’ s faithfully every month.

        • Jennifer

          I never check my husband’s either. It’s his job, he checks it. I know how much we each get deposited into the account each month, but I don’t go look at his LES. I know how much I make, and how much vacation time I have from my job, and my husband doesn’t read my paycheck info either. If we have questions about any anomalies in deposits, we ask each other, we talk about it, we don’t go through each other’s paperwork. I never thought there was anything unusual in that, it’s worked for the past 17 years.

          • guest

            And you don’t retain your December copy of the LES to claim any CFC, 401k etc deductions etc at tax time?

        • apartystudio

          If I need to know his leave balance, I simply ask him. I pay all our household bills and I see the money deposited into our account. If there seems to be too little at any point in time, I’d ask him about it. I run my own business so I feel like I have enough paperwork to deal with and at the month’s end, I’m swamped doing my own paperwork. I couldn’t imagine having to look through my husband’s each month. I feel like he’s responsible for his just like I’m responsible for mine.

    • Kate

      It isn’t as easy to look at the LES anymore because they don’t give the guys a print out anymore, they have to go online to look at it and print it out if they want. I set my husband’s MyPay acct up for him, so I knew the passwords. But something glitched or switched over or something that required him to log on and fix it on a CAC card accessible computer at work and by the time it came around the next time I wanted to see something on his LES, he couldn’t remember his password combination.

      • Mary

        The mypay log in password has to be changed every 60 or 90 days now they just started this this last year. I know that this has made it harder for me to look at his LES which I always use to check until they started doing this.

        • AD PS1

          Not true Mary. If you access your mypay via CAC enabled computer you don’t NEED a password therefore you don’t need to change it.

          • ProudSpouse2Soldier

            Mary is completely correct. 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…..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.

            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 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… 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 get 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…..

      • BeBe

        I am a service member and I still receive an LES in the mail.

      • ProudSpouse2Soldier

        I totally understand Kate….. and can relate!!!!

    • Rmd

      I’m unable to look at my husband’s LES. They are required to change the passwords so frequently that with him deployed I never know it (emailing sensitive information like that would be dangerous). I basically know what he makes and I check that the money is in our bank account each month, and if I am curious about leave balance I ask.

    • carolinecloud

      I check the LES on occasion and my husband pays into SGLI but I don’t know that it would occur to me or another spouse what the ABSENCE of the word SGLI means on the LES.

      NOT seeing the term SGLI on a LES requires a certain amount of understanding and would mean that the spouse would need to have been educated at some point that SGLI was private insurance that the husband was opting out of. So I am sympathetic to her lack of understanding of this benefit. No one has ever mentioned the word SGLI to me except for my husband. And her husband obviously did not explain this to her.

    • Elise

      My hubs always gets his LES electronically and it is an absolute PAIN in the you-know-what to retrieve it. I’ve only looked at one maybe twice. Once to explain it to him, and once to verify a few amounts. Do not be critical of how a wife chose to trust her husband to handle his own paycheck.

      • wade

        And that demonstrated lack fo trust has put her in a horrible situation. Perhaps this is a heads up to all spouses to sit down and have that “discussion” about insurance.

  • Sonia

    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.

  • Jay

    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.

  • Carrie

    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.

  • Carrie

    Meant to say mean not amen.

  • Tiffany Johnson

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

  • Tris

    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 …

  • Betty

    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.

    • Vern

      Betty, I’m sorry if my bluntness comes across as rude because that is not my intent. After spending 20 plus years in the military I know no other way but to get to the point and to say what’s on my mind. If I passed away with no SGLI would the military or anyone else care about what my wife and kids would have to go through? Well sense I was enlisted I really don’t think so.

      • Enlisted Vet

        Way unfair to say no one would care just because you were enlisted. Rank is absolutely not the issue here.

  • Jessie

    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.

    • Vern

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

    • nmbama

      Why would anyone pay monthly insurance premiums if they would be allowed to retroactively make payments IF something happens? That’s not how insurance works, no matter how much we’d like it to be. It’s a tragic situation for sure, but being a military member should make one look at life insurance as more of a necessity than your average person (spoken from the perspective of a military spouse). I say this in response to the comment above, and it is not meant to be disrespectful in any way. I have an enormous amount of sympathy for this family and wish nothing but blessings on them.

      • Tristine

        Exactly. That’s not the way it works. You can’t drive without car insurance, get into a car accident and then walk into an insurance office and ask them to cover you….even if you offer to pay them what your premiums would have been all those months. If that’s the way it worked, no one would pay for insurance.

    • John

      Funny how people don’t understand the concept of INSURANCE. It’s like asking why can’t I get the winning lotto ticket numbers and play them after the fact. I’ll pay the $1 ticket, and win a million dollars! I think Obamacare and ‘pre-existing conditions’ exceptions have screwed up people’s minds.

      INSURANCE is deferring a risk pool. EVERYONE pays in, and the company can offer the insurance because premiums across a whole pool will cover the rare claims.

  • Vern

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

  • Chad

    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.

    • Vern

      Chad, I don’t that I’m being inappropriate at all! This is America and I can express my feelings openly.

    • Brandy

      She isn’t just educating others, she 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.

  • Vern

    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…

    • Sonia

      Vern I believe she didn’t know. I’ve been married for 17 years and up until last month my husband didn’t know our bills, he didn’t know our savings. He left it all up to me and I always did a great job with it. He only concentrated on being a Marine and that’s how he wanted it. I was more than happy to oblige that request :) but recently we did an audit on ourselves to make sure we are ready for retirement in 3 years and he was surprised how much he made. I really do believe it’s entirely possible she had no clue!

    • David

      I just queried my wife concerning this. She said she had probably looked over my LES 5 times in my 28 years of service.

  • Peg

    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?!

    • Vern

      Peg, you might not like the messenger but the message is real.

      • Jennifer

        What message, that you are questioning the idea the Theresa didn’t know about the SGLI? That you are essentially accusing her of lying – that is what “That dog won’t hunt,” is saying. That is not a message, that’s libel.

  • Genia

    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.

  • Donna

    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.

    • Charis

      Donna you make some very great points. I hate to be blunt, but ladies, do not be naive when it comes to your family finances, especially if you do not work or are a stay-at-home Mom. You and your childrens’ futures could depend on it. Don’t assume your military spouse has taken care of everything. And while it is difficult to discuss, every spouse should be having that “what-if” conversation before any deployment! Prepare and inform yourself, so that if the worst were to ever happen, you are prepared to assume responsibility for your family’s finances and welfare. You have a right to know and should be having open and frank discussions with your spouse and making financial decisions together. I’m sorry, but being a Naval aviator (high risk job) with a family and not having ANY life insurance coverage at all is irresponsible, period. Theresa has done a great service to many by putting her story out there. Spouses also need to be aware that after retirement, unless your spouse has elected SBP coverage (which carries a monthly premium based on the amount of coverage you elect) for you and enrolled in VGLI you will get nothing in the event of his/her death. Military retirement pay stops upon death of the retired servicemember and the only compensation a spouse will receive is if the retiree elected SBP coverage upon retiring. Likewise, SGLI coverage ends upon retirement and the retiree must enroll in VGLI to continue similar coverage, although the monthly premiums are higher than SGLI. In the Air Force, if a retiree declines SBP coverage, the spouse has to be present and acknowledge by signing that they are aware of the choice.

  • Kris

    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.

    • Vern

      Thank you because that’s all I was trying to say.

      • Jennifer

        Vern, Okay well back here on planet Earth, this happens all the time. Especially to young families. I can’t tell you how many times people have had to be stalked for their Page 2s, and unfortunately many commands don’t bother to stalk. Service members try to shield their wives from the “knives clubs” and FRGs, etc., that might actually be able to help the wives with this information, some refuse point blank to even give their phone numbers or email addresses to the Ombudsman. Young service members don’t want to think about their own mortality, so many of them procrastinate or just dismiss the issue altogether. It happens, all the time. If they don’t bring their spouses into the loop on something they don’t want to think about themselves, how are their civilian spouses supposed to just figure this out? Especially the wives with multiple small children who have no spare time or brain power on their hands. Every single time a boat deploys the Beach Det/Fleet and Family/Navy Relief gets inundated with calls from wives who can’t figure out how to access their husbands’ pay on their own. Granted these are usually very young wives, but the bottom line is that it is not a stretch at all that this happened and that this woman is trying to educate her peers to help keep it from happening again without any snarky comments about her inspecting her husband’s LES. My husband is active duty and we have been married for 17 years. I do not ever inspect his LES. I do know, because we have discussed it, what the plan is, and I do follow up with him every time we PCS – but that is just because I am personally a freak about having as much information and doing as much research as possible to feel comfortable in any situation, not because I am any smarter than anyone else. I know the Navy tries hard with pre-deployment fairs, etc., to get all the relevant info out, but the bottom line is that this is a huge problem with Navy families. I commend Theresa for sharing her story. I know her husband never meant cause them harm, his attitude and her explanation for it is completely familiar and plausible.

    • J

      I completely agree Kris and Vern. My opinion is this; Not being involved in something as important as benefits in case of death is being naiive. Especially for the spouse of an aviator. I too find it hard to believe a LT CDR would A. Opt out of SGLI and B. Not include his wife in such important decision making. I apologize ifthis sounds insensitive and rude but I do not think she should be paid the SGLI her husband declined. She would have known he declined had she and her husband had the important conversations about what would happen. Now her and her kids have to pay for her’s and her husband’s mistake. It’s tragic. I do however think her sharing her story is important. She is getting the critical message out to spouses: DO NOT rely on the military to inform you of your spouses decisions. Your spouse should be sharing this information with you and for them to not do so and for you not to ask is irresponsible. DO HAVE those very important conversations with your spouse and come to the agreement together to have SGLI or not. It’s important for every military member to have safeguards in place for their families in case of death. NO ONE is invincible.

  • RCB

    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.

    • apartystudio

      I agree. SGLI should be mandatory.

    • Vanessa

      What I cannot understand is how someone in his job, as dangerous as it is, had absolutely no type of life insurance whatsoever. I feel so very badly for his wife because part of taking care of the family is to ensure that they will have money to live on should something happen to the service member.

  • @LLMilitaryWife

    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…..

  • GoldStarWife

    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.

    • karen

      I have read all of these posts where so many spouses are in or have been in the same predicament. I am truly sorry for the death of your husband. My husband was killed on active duty in 1997. We had a 3 year old daughter. I am writing because I now work for a wonderful organization called Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation. ( We bridge the gap from where the VA leaves off in education benefits and provide a debt free education for each child that has lost a parent while on active duty. My daughter receives this scholarship and knowing that the college of her choice will be paid for has taken an enormous burden off of my shoulders. If we can help you please contact us. We are here for you and your children.

  • GI bride.

    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.

  • Jeannette

    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.

  • Gregg

    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.


    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!

  • Rmd

    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.

  • Shearer

    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.

  • Army spouse

    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

  • Julie

    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?

    • Debbie

      Julie – The SGLI is automatic – the servicemember has to physically go to his/her personnel site and turn it down.

  • guest

    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.

    • Tristine

      I print out my husband’s and look it over every month. You’d be surprised how often I catch mistakes and it’s easier to fix mistakes when they’re new.

    • carolinecloud

      I check the LES on occasion and my husband pays into SGLI but I don’t know that it would occur to me or another spouse what the ABSENCE of the word SGLI means on the LES. I am not sure that most spouses understand the SGLI would be a line item where if you did NOT see the the term SGLI then you would not be eligible to receive it. NOT seeing it requires a certain amount of understanding and would mean that the spouse would need to have been educated at some point that SGLI was private insurance that the husband was opting out of.

      • guest

        But that education is already out there, pre deployment briefings, internet, FRGs etc. Even if you hear it once, does it not occur to someone to gather more information on something, or have a conversation about it?

  • CheechK

    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.

  • mkmjjmmom

    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.

  • retiredusnnavywife

    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.

  • Guest

    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.

    • wade

      And some who do take SBP have a spounse die before the retiree, That payment continues for years & years afterwards. My Dad paid for another 20+ years. He was much older than Mom – that is the only reason sonme take SBP.

      • Mil ret05

        If he had made it a point to know the regs for SBP, you CAN change or cancel it at any time a change occurs to life status(such as death of the spouse).I know this stipulation has been in effect at least since 1978.

      • J. Roseberry

        What ? ! If I read this correctly, you stated that your dad paid into SBP for twenty years after
        your mom died. The premium should have stopped at the time of her death unless he had
        designated another beneficiary. Please clarify in another post.

  • Suzanne

    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.

  • @LLMilitaryWife

    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 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!

  • Guestwife

    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.

    • AD PS1

      I find that hard to believe Guestwife…SGLI can be changed at ANY TIME. The SGLI form is a VERY SIMPLE for, with very few blocks to be filled out. Someone was telling you a lie. Google the SGLI form and you can see for yourself what it looks like and it will also tell you alot about this benefit. Don’t rely on “Sea Lawyers” to give you good reliable and accurate information.

  • Kim D

    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.

  • Jen

    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.

    • Debbie

      It is automatic – the servicemember has to physically go to his personnel site and turn it down. It is a big deal to get it turned back on again after a declination. I administered the SGLI program while I was on active duty.

  • Bill

    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.

    • Vanessa

      Chief, if a spouse wants to receive payments after the service member’s death in retirement, they must sign up for the Survivor Benefit Plan when they attend the retirement seminar.

    • nmbama

      I am always surprised when I hear that people don’t know about this! Many people assume that a servicemember’s retirement benefits pass on to the spouse upon death and that is simply not true. As noted by another commenter, you must elect to pay in to the Survivor Benefit Plan upon retirement (there is a time frame during which the election must be made) in order for this to continue, and even then I don’t think you can choose a plan that pays 100% of the retirement benefits. This should be something that is discussed when a servicemember outprocesses for the final time (upon retirement). I *think* that the spouse must sign something that either elects or declines the Survivor Benefit Plan upon retirement, but I am not completely sure on that.

      • redleg13f

        For the Reserve Component, the Survivor Benefit Plan is elected on DD Form 2656-5. Any option other than “C” (Immediate Spouse Annuity) requires the Spouses signed and NOTARIZED acknowledgement.

    • retiredusnnavywife

      Bill, have you logged in to to check your pay status? Your SBP election is there and even explains how much and to whom it will go.

      • 28+

        As I stated above, it is paid with PRE-TAX dollars. Still a pricey insurance policy. It is skimmed off your pension PRIOR to being taxed– lowering your tax on the remaining portion of your pension! Survivor gets 55 % of pension that is inflation adjusted lifetime income.
        When my father passed away, his pension was already deposited into his account, a few days later DFAS requested my mother return it. We hadn’t even had the funeral yet!

    • AD PS1

      Bill, sorry to have to tell you this but what kind of a USN CHIEF were you NOT to know this. You were required to go through TAP (called TAMPS these days) if you retired anything within the last 20 to 25 years. Did you not go to any seminars or recieve any type of retirement counseling? ALL of your retirement paperwork will also inform you of this. How, as a CHIEF, can you effectively counsel your subordinates if you don’t know the rules? Shiftcolors also gives out very good information about this.

  • Guest

    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.

    • AD PS1

      That probably wasn’t additional life insurance through the military but aviation pay. Aviators, CO’s Dentists, Doctors, some lawyers all get “special pay” just because of what their job is. I would recommend to any spouse to get involved and ask questions about military pay and entitlements. There are numerous different types of pay the the servicemenber gets.

  • Teresa

    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.

  • Mia

    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.

  • April

    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.

    • AFC5wife

      Thank you April, for this info. I always looked at my husband’s LES’s when they were paper, and as a vet myself I knew how to read them. But when they went paperless I had no idea I could get “read only” access! I only saw them when my husband logged on from home. We’ve always had open and honest discussions about how much life insurance the kids and I would need if he died, and purchased more accordingly. I’m really saddened at the situation Teresa found herself in and am amazed at her ability to look beyond her personal pain and work toward educating others.

  • Tristine

    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.

    • Elise

      Your comment is hardly helpful.

      • Tristine

        Telling people they should be educated about what comes in and comes out is not helpful? It sure would have helped her out. All spouses need to be more open about finance and communicate. That would solve a massive amount of problems. If you’re dependent on one income then you should check in on it from time to time.

        • Tristine

          comes in and goes out*

  • carolinecloud

    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.

    • Debbie

      That was the servicemember’s responsivbility. He chose not to do it. We’ll never know why.

  • MCM

    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”.

  • wtpworrier

    “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.

    • Debbie

      The SGLI is automatic. The servicemember has to go in and turn it down.

  • Alicia

    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.

  • Domingo Aguilar

    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.

  • KMI

    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.

    • Debbie

      There is one. . . but you would be surprised how many letters come back undeliverable.

  • Jennefet

    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.

  • Jennefer

    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.

  • Mrs Pollack

    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.

  • 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!

  • Roni

    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.

  • Tina Sanchez

    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.

  • Mary Ellen Sullivan

    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.

  • nmbama

    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.

  • Jennifer

    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.

  • JR Reed

    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.

  • Cynthia

    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.

  • ECA

    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.

    • AD PS1

      ECA, how do you know that the Navy failed to notify the spouse? How would you even prove that the Navy failed in that regard? Files are kept for only 2 years in any Navy office, then when the servicemeber transfers it starts all over again? The service record no longer exists as the older Navy people know it so there really is no longer a “paper file” since there is no service record, these documents are given to the servicemember to do whatever they choose – they are couseled though to keep there own records. It’s a shame that people are always so quick to place the blame somewhere else. This LCDR was solely to blame for not having the SGLI. The personnel office shlould not be blamed for failing to notify a spouse when it’s the spouse that goes home every night (most of the time anyway) and should be talking with their spouse about these very important issues. Place the blame where the blame belongs, the servicemember.

  • J. Thornton

    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.

  • laura rodriguez

    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.

  • Safaribuzz

    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.

  • Brandy

    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.

  • JJ Murray

    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.

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

  • DRW

    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.

  • AppyHorsey

    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.

    • mkmjjmmom

      I can certainly understand your frustrations. I, too, am the bill-payer in my household. I have been a stay-at-home mom for nearly 20 years, mostly due to following the military rather than strictly by choice.
      But I also have insisted that I have a say in what happens financially. We discuss insurance policies (SGLI and other term policies) and retirement accounts (TSP, ROTH IRAs, and other accounts) on a regular basis. And, since we decided together that I would be the bill-payer, we also made sure that every bank or other institution has me on as a secondary account holder and that they have a copy of the POA if needed. I know it’s a pain…I really do.
      To my knowledge, no one can take out a life insurance policy on another person…you have to take out a policy on yourself, and SGLI is no different. Frankly, the fact that it is available is a benefit, not a right.

    • Jack

      They have a vehicle for a spouse handling finances and decisions when a SM deploys, and that is a Power of Attorney. My wife has as much say in our life as I do, when I am home and when I am deployed. A POA doesn’t require a lawyer and is handled daily (and has been for years) by LNs/YNs/PSs and their Air Force/Army equivalents. A simple form that takes 5 minutes. Your frustrations should not be directed at the military.

  • Michael G. Crist

    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 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!

    • Amy_Bushatz

      Michael — this blog is a part of :-)

  • Jenny

    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.

  • Karen

    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, ( 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: 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!

  • happyfrenchman

    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.

    • AD PS1

      Why would there be a waiver? Is there ever a waiver on civilian life insurance, which in fact the SGLI is? To my knowledge there is no such thing as a waiver for the spouse in regards to a life insurance policy.

      • happyfrenchman

        In order for the guy to turn down the insurance, the wife has to sign a waiver or an acknowledgement of the fact. They said they had no record of her ever being notified. There are all kinds of waivers involved in annuities and sometimes life insurance policies. A military retiree has to choose a Survivor Benefit plan and the wife has to sign off on it.

  • Cyndy

    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.

  • Aggie

    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 !

  • Don

    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!!

  • redleg13f

    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.

  • Grammy

    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.

  • Michelle

    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.

  • nmbama

    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.

  • Bill

    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.

    • Debbie

      There is nothing to stop a spouse from buying insurance on the other spouse if he/she is willing to pay for it.

  • ET1 Godin

    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.

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

  • Old RM

    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.

  • Nadia

    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.

  • Edward Soria

    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.

    • J. Roseberry

      Surviving spouses are paid the SBP benefit according to the percentage the other spouse elected
      and chose to pay for, from their retirement pay; no interest (and no taxes) on those payments. However, the surviving spouse will have to pay income tax on those payments as they are received.
      Someone please reply if this has changed.

  • SusieNavyHomemaker

    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.

  • NotHerSGLI

    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.

  • AF28+

    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.

  • OldSailor32

    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.

  • mkmjjmmom

    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.

  • Vgeida1

    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!

    • guest

      You would need to be covered under SBP to retain his retirement pay, not SGLI…he was fully within his rights to drop SGLI at retirement.

      • guest

        And if you did a deemed election for SBP, you had one year to submit the decree to DFAS, if you neglected to do you you aren’t covered.

        “The former spouse sent a DD Form 2656-10, Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)/Reserve Component (RC) SBP Request For Deemed Election, to DFAS (Defense Finance and Accounting Service, US Military Retirement Pay, PO Box 7130, London, KY 40742-7130) requesting that an election for former-spouse coverage be deemed to have been made. The former spouse’s deemed election request must be received by DFAS within one year of the date of the court order or it cannot be honored. This is true even if the court order was issued more than a year before a member’s retirement date, in which case the former spouse’s request for a deemed election would be maintained on file at DFAS until the member retires. ”

  • Chad

    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.

  • retiredusnnavywife

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

  • retiredusnnavywife

    Interesting reading regarding SBP:

    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.

  • Shelly Mosbacker

    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!!

  • Cb1913

    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.

  • Deborah Bays

    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…

    • Mary

      The $100,000 is only paid if he is Active at the time of death. It is not something paid into at all. As your spouse was Retired then the only option would have been Survivor’s Benefit Plan which is something he would have had to start himself. An amount would have been subtracted each month from his retirement to be paid to a Survivor upon death. The other option would have been VSGLI which is a Retirees Life Insurance.

    • AD PS1

      DoD is Department of Defense.

  • Vicki

    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.

    • AD PS1

      I am beginning to think that there are hundreds, if not more, people out there reading these articles that don’t know diddly squat about what they are and are not entitled too. Good Grief! First off, Vicki, the SGLI is ONLY for member’s serving, YOU as a spouse are not entitled to it anymore. It STOPS when people GET OUT OF THE MILITARY. Spouse’s are not entitled to military benefits just because they are married or were married to people in the military. When you say disable Marine, are you saying that he is a VA disabled person? Is he drawing a pension from the VA? Is he being seen, medically, by the VA?

  • Emery McCoy

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

    • Mary

      You need to update your information. You can have it go to anyone you want including your dog, charity or anyone/anything else.

  • Shannon

    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.

  • ProudSpouse2Soldier

    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… 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…..

  • Greg

    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.

  • Mav

    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.

    • AD PS1

      May – her husband didn’t feel the need to elect SGLI so why should she be entitled to something he didn’t want or give her. SGLI is an election – YES or NO. He said NO.

  • VietVwt’68

    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.

  • AD PS1

    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.

  • Boston01

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

  • guest

    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.

    • dependentrighthater

      She should be able to get the benefits that weren’t paid for. That’s how insurance works. Her ignorance to the matter is her own fault.

      • guest

        And unfortunately his legacy is going to be *the guy that left nothing for his family.*

  • Kathleen Mills

    “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?

  • Guest

    “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.

  • Pauline Albert

    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.