Life Insurance Guide for Veterans and Active Military


ByMandy Sleight
Edited byDenise Cristobal
Contributions by2 experts
ByMandy Sleight
Edited byDenise Cristobal
Contributions by2 experts

Updated: June 10, 2024

Advertising & Editorial Disclosure

Military life insurance death benefits could help prevent your family from facing financial hardship if you die while they’re dependent on you. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a range of life insurance policies for veterans, active-duty personnel and their immediate family members. These programs are designed to provide financial security to chosen beneficiaries. Understanding the options available to you in each stage of your military career can empower you to make informed decisions that safeguard your family’s future.

Military Life Insurance Fast Facts

 
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Most active duty military members pay $31 monthly for life insurance, including traumatic injury protection.

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The top two causes of active duty military deaths are accidents and suicide. Less than 20% die in action or from wounds they receive during service.

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Veterans can get up to $500,000 in in Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI) without proving insurability if applying within 240 days of separation.

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Unlike some private life insurance policies, VGLI doesn’t have contestable, suicide or war clauses, meaning your beneficiary receives the death benefit regardless of the cause.


Life Insurance for Active Duty Military Members

The U.S. government provides several life insurance options for active duty military members. Eligible members can secure up to $500,000 of military life insurance. Spouses are eligible for up to $100,000, and dependent children can receive up to $10,000 in free military family life insurance coverage.

Active service members may also explore life insurance through private insurance companies. However, weighing the cost, eligibility criteria and exclusions of personal life insurance against the benefits provided by armed forces life insurance is vital. Such comparison ensures that the chosen policy best fits the specific needs of military families.

VA Life Insurance Coverage

The VA provides most current service members with military life insurance and traumatic injury protection.

Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI)

Coverage
Application
Changing Coverage

From $50,000–500,000 in group term life insurance, sold in $50,000 increments.

Meet eligibility criteria as an active duty service member and be automatically enrolled through your service branch with payroll deduction.

Change coverage, turn down coverage, restore SGLI coverage or make beneficiary changes through the milConnect SGLI Online Enrollment System (SOES).

Most active-duty service members are eligible for up to $500,000 in group term life insurance. You get signed up automatically if you qualify, though you can choose your coverage level and beneficiary or decline coverage.

You get free coverage for 120 days after separation or up to two years if you become disabled when leaving. You can then convert your policy to military retirement life insurance or a civilian policy.

ELIGIBILITY

You must meet at least one requirement to be eligible for SGLI:

  • Active duty in a military branch
  • A NOAA or USPHS commissioned member
  • U.S. military academy cadet or midshipman
  • ROTC cadet, midshipman or member practicing cruises or training
  • Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) mobilization volunteer
  • Assigned to a Ready Reserve or National Guard unit and scheduled for a minimum of 12 periods of annual inactive training

Source: SGLI

Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI)

Coverage
Application
Changing Coverage

Provides between $25,000–100,000 in short-term benefits for eligible SGLI-insured service members who experience a traumatic injury from a scheduled loss.

Fill out the Application for TSGLI Benefits (SGLV 8600). Email, fax or mail the completed form to your service branch listed on the first page.

There is no option to change coverage for TSGLI. Coverage is automatic when buying SGLI; the benefit amount depends on the loss type.

Service members who are signed up for SGLI can get up to $100,000 in short-term benefits after a traumatic injury. The injury cannot be self-inflicted, involve illegal drug activity or result from mental or physical illness/disease or medical or surgical treatment. You’re also ineligible for coverage if you were injured while committing or trying to commit a felony. This coverage is automatically included in SGLI and costs $1 monthly.

ELIGIBILITY

To be eligible for TSGLI, you must:

  • Have a traumatic injury as a direct result of a scheduled loss within 730 days (two years) of the loss
  • The injury must have occurred before midnight on your separation date
  • Have survived at least seven days from the injury date
  • Be an active duty service or National Guard member, Reservist or on one-day muster or funeral-honors duty

Source: TSGLI

SGLI and TSGLI Premium Rates

The premium rate for SGLI military life insurance is $0.06 per $1,000 in coverage. You can buy coverage in $50,000 increments from $50,000 to $500,000. The cost depends on your coverage amount, from $3 for $50,000 to $30 for $500,000. TSGLI costs $1 per month. The premium is automatically included in your SGLI premium, which is deducted from your base pay.

Coverage Amount
SGLI Monthly Premium
TSGLI Monthly Premium
Total Monthly Premium

$50,000

$3

$1

$4

$100,000

$6

$1

$7

$150,000

$9

$1

$10

$200,000

$12

$1

$13

$250,000

$15

$1

$16

Private Life Insurance Options for Military Members

Although SGLI is automatic, you can change your coverage amount or decline coverage completely. If you need more than the $500,000 maximum coverage, consider getting additional coverage from private life insurance. You can convert SGLI to an individual policy without proving insurability by filling out the SGLI conversion notice. You can get the form by emailing or calling Prudential, your military life insurance company.

Private life insurance costs can vary since your health, age, lifestyle, occupation and other factors determine your risk class and pricing. When getting private life insurance, asking about coverage exclusions and other benefits you may be eligible for is essential. Some insurers won’t cover active duty military or may have exclusions military life insurance doesn’t, such as a suicide clause or war exclusion.

Some insurance companies and organizations offering active-duty military life insurance include:

An illustrative image of a veteran.

Life Insurance for Veterans

Veterans have several options for military retirement life insurance:

  • VGLI: SGLI conversion option for veterans and former service members
  • SGLI-DE: Provides SGLI extension for totally disabled veterans
  • VALife: Life insurance for veterans with a service-related disability
  • VMLI: Mortgage protection insurance for veterans who’ve adapted their homes after severe service-related disabilities

There’s also the option of private life insurance, though pre-existing conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart and mental health conditions may affect eligibility and cost. Your health isn’t a factor when you apply for VGLI within 240 days of separation. The VA recommends applying for VGLI within the window, even if you apply for private life insurance, to avoid missing the no health screening window.

Life Insurance Coverage Through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Veterans can get life insurance through the VA, even with pre-existing conditions or severe disability.

Veterans Group Life Insurance (VGLI)

Coverage
Application
Changing Coverage

Your coverage amount is between $10,000 and $500,000, depending on the amount of SGLI coverage you had when you separated from the military.

Log into the Prudential Office of Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (OSGLI) website to apply online. You can also download and complete the application for Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (SGLV 8714) and mail or fax it.

You can increase your coverage by $25,000 every five years to meet the maximum of $500,000 before you turn 60. You can work with a participating private life insurer to convert to an individual policy.

Veterans can convert their SGLI coverage to VGLI. The application deadline is one year and 120 days after military separation. If you apply after this deadline, you must prove good health to be eligible. Your VGLI coverage will match your SGLI amount, but you can buy more if you haven’t reached the $500,000 maximum. You can increase coverage by $25,000 every five years until you reach 60.

ELIGIBILITY

Veterans and former service members are eligible for VGLI as long as they meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • You’re a part-time National Guard or Reserve member with part-time SGLI coverage and have a disability preventing you from getting standard rates.
  • You’re within the 485-day window and are:
    — converting your SGLI
    — being released or retired from the National Guard or Ready Reserve
    — on the Temporary Disability Retirement List (TDRL)
    — a member of the Inactive National Guard (ING), Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) or U.S. Public Health Service Inactive Reserve Corps (IRS)
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COST

VGLI costs depend on your age and coverage amount. Premium rates increase with every $10,000 in coverage.

Servicemembers Group Life Insurance Disability Extension (SGLI-DE)

Coverage
Application
Changing Coverage

Veterans will receive up to two years of free SGLI coverage, depending on their impairment, severity and work status.

You must fill out the SGLI Disability Extension form completely and mail it back to OSGLI with the required documentation.

The SGLI-DE does not allow coverage changes, though you can make a beneficiary change by logging into your milConnect account.

SGLI-DE is an SGLI extension for permanently disabled veterans. Eligible veterans will get up to two years of free SGLI coverage. You must fill out the extension form and mail it to OSGLI with your separation orders and current Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) or a DD-214 or NGB22 copy.

ELIGIBILITY

If you become fully disabled and can’t work, have permanent hearing or speech loss or have permanent loss of at least one limb or eye, you may qualify for an SGLI coverage extension of up to two years. Your SGLI coverage will be free when your disability extension is granted.

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COST

If you are approved for an SGLI disability extension, your coverage is free for the extension, which is a maximum of two years or when you can return to work, whichever happens first.

Veterans Affairs Life Insurance (VALife)

Coverage
Application
Changing Coverage

Coverage ranges from $10,000–40,000, bought in $10,000 increments. The policy will begin to build cash value after the second policy anniversary.

Check eligibility and apply online through the VA Life Insurance website.

If you have S-DVI, you can keep it or apply for VALife. You can keep your S-DVI active until the two-year waiting period is over if you apply before December 31, 2025.

Veterans Affairs Life Insurance (VALife), formerly Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance (S-DVI), is for service-related disabled veterans. This veteran life insurance policy is guaranteed acceptance whole life insurance with a two-year death benefit waiting period. You can get between $10,000 and $40,000 in VALife in $10,000 increments.

ELIGIBILITY

Veterans with a service-related disability rating of at least 0% are eligible if they’re 80 or younger. For those 81 and older, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You applied for VA disability before your 81st birthday.
  • You got your disability rating after turning 81.
  • You apply within two years of receiving your disability rating.
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COST

The cost depends on your coverage amount and age when applying. If you’re within six months of your next birthday, your rate will be based on your upcoming age. Your rates will never increase as long as your policy stays in force.

Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI)

Coverage
Application
Changing Coverage

Receive the equivalent of your loan amount, up to $200,000. Your lender is your beneficiary.

Apply before you turn 70 with your SAH grant loan guaranty agent and fill out the Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance Statement (VA Form 29-8636).

Your coverage will change automatically to match your current loan balance. You cannot change your beneficiary.

VMLI is for severely disabled veterans who were injured during service and have made adaptations within their homes. You can get up to $200,000 in mortgage life insurance, which is paid directly to your lender if you die. This life insurance for military veterans is a decreasing term policy — the coverage will decrease in line with your mortgage.

ELIGIBILITY

Service members and veterans must qualify for the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant to be eligible for VMLI and meet the following criteria:

  • You have a severe disability made worse or caused by your service.
  • You received the SAH grant.
  • You have the title of the home, and it has a mortgage.
  • You are under 70 years old.
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COST

Several factors determine your VMLI cost, including age, current mortgage balance, number of mortgage payments left and VMLI coverage amount.

Accelerated Benefit Options

If you or your spouse have received a terminal illness diagnosis with nine or fewer months to live, you can get up to 50% of your SGLI, VGLI or FSGLI coverage, whichever is applicable. The amount you receive while still alive will reduce your beneficiary’s military life insurance death benefit.

Private Life Insurance Options for Veterans

Veterans can convert their VGLI policy to an individual policy with a private insurer or get a private life insurance policy. Converting VGLI requires completing the VGLI Conversion Notice, which you can get from Prudential Insurance Company.

Your premium will increase every five years if you keep your VGLI policy. If you convert it to private whole life insurance for veterans, you won’t have to prove insurability. If you apply for private life insurance, you will likely have to answer health questions and undergo a medical exam.

Private life insurance costs may be higher since your health status is part of the rating process. Mental health conditions, such as PTSD or depression, or other health problems could affect a veteran's rating and eligibility with private life insurance. There is also a two-year suicide clause with private life insurance that VGLI doesn’t have.

If you’re looking for military retirement life insurance from private companies, consider:

  • American Fidelity Life Insurance Company
  • American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA)
  • Bankers Life and Casualty Company
  • EMC National Life Company
  • Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual)
  • Military Benefit Organization
  • Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company
  • USAA life insurance
An illustrative image of military families.

Life Insurance for Military Families

The spouses and dependent children of SGLI-enrolled service members are eligible for Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI). This term life policy is also administered through the Department of Veterans Affairs and issued by Prudential Insurance Company.

Spouses are eligible for up to the military member’s SGLI coverage amount or $100,000. Each dependent child gets $10,000 of free coverage until they’re 18. Full-time students may get coverage up to age 22, and permanently totally disabled dependents may get indefinite free coverage.

This low-cost military spouse life insurance policy and free coverage for dependents can help military families’ budgets, as it is usually cheaper than individual life insurance. Like SGLI, FSGLI coverage is automatic, so there is no underwriting process to consider, like private life insurance.

Family Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)

Coverage
Application
Changing Coverage

Spouses can match the service member’s SGLI coverage up to $100,000. Dependent children get $10,000 in free coverage until they are 18.

There is no application, as coverage is automatic. The only eligibility requirement is being a spouse or dependent child of an active-duty service member with full-time SGLI coverage.

The service member can lower the coverage amount, cancel or decline coverage and make beneficiary changes through the milConnect portal.

Spouses and dependents get automatic coverage through the FSGLI program. The premium for FSGLI is automatically deducted from the service member’s base pay.

FSGLI is term life insurance, which increases with age. The spouse can convert FSGLI to an individual whole life policy within 120 days of military separation, divorce, death or written election to cancel SGLI or spouse FSGLI.

ELIGIBILITY

Spouses and dependent children of active duty, National Guard or Ready Reserve service members are eligible for FSGLI if the military member has full-time SGLI. The spouse can be active duty, civilian or a veteran and still qualify for FSGLI.

Source: FSGLI

FSGLI Premium Rates

Premium rates for spousal FSGLI are based on the spouse’s age and coverage amount.

Coverage Amount
Under 35
35–39
40–44
45–49
50–54
55–59
60 and older

$10,000

$0.45

$0.53

$0.70

$1.00

$1.70

$2.95

$4.50

$20,000

$0.90

$1.06

$1.40

$2.00

$3.40

$5.90

$9.00

$30,000

$1.35

$1.59

$2.10

$3.00

$5.10

$8.85

$13.50

$40,000

$1.80

$2.12

$2.80

$4.00

$6.80

$11.80

$18.00

$50,000

$2.25

$2.65

$3.50

$5.00

$8.50

$14.75

$22.50

How to Choose the Right Military Life Insurance Plan

Military members should consider their coverage needs, health and budget when choosing the right military life insurance plan. Although military life insurance is cheap, you might have coverage needs larger than $500,000, and your spouse may need more than $100,000.

If either of you has health problems, they can cause higher rates for private life insurance or might get your application denied. There are no health considerations with military life insurance. The free coverage for dependents may also factor into your decision to buy private or military life insurance.

However, you’re limited to term life insurance through the VA unless you convert your policy privately. There are several types of life insurance available through private insurers.

Evaluating your individual and family needs can help you determine whether military life insurance, private coverage or a mix of both is the right solution.

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    Benefits and Coverage

    The VA caps coverage for military life insurance but offers benefits like traumatic injury and accelerated death benefits. Private life insurers offer $1 million or more in coverage and have many riders and benefits available.

    Company Strength

    Prudential, the life insurance company underwriting and issuing military life insurance, has superior financial stability to pay claims. A private insurer’s financial strength can vary and should be verified before applying.

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    Cost

    Costs are fixed for military life insurance by age and coverage amount, except for VMLI, which includes mortgage factors. Age, health status, occupation, lifestyle and hobbies are some factors that determine the cost of private life insurance.

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    Underwriting Process

    There is only an underwriting process for VGLI, FSGLI or VGLI if you apply for VGLI over 240 days after separation. Most private insurers require you to answer health questions on the application and may require a medical exam.

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    War Clause

    A war clause would prevent payment to the beneficiary if the insured dies during war. Military life insurance doesn’t have this clause. Private life insurance may have a war clause and other exclusions.

Should You Choose a Private Life Insurance Policy?

Before choosing a private life insurance policy, weigh the pros and cons compared to military life insurance. Coverage amounts, benefits and available riders can vary widely by insurance company. The underwriting process and cost may not be worth buying private life insurance for some military families.

Benefits and Drawbacks

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Benefits
  • Coverage, premium and benefit flexibility
  • Healthy applicants may get cheaper rates than military life insurance
  • Choose from term and permanent life insurance
  • Adding riders like spouse and child term riders to the service member’s policy may be more cost-effective
  • Can be in addition to a government-issued life insurance policy
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Drawbacks
  • Military-related injured or disabled veterans may not qualify
  • Accidental death and dismemberment, disability premium waivers may not be available or cost extra
  • Health status may cause a denial or expensive rates
  • Might have war, terrorism, traveling to a high-risk country and other exclusions
  • Private life insurance has a two-year suicide clause

An illustrative image of a list of additional life insurance coverage.

Purchasing Additional Life Insurance Coverage

Even if you maximize your military benefits, you may need more life insurance than the military provides. In this case, buying additional private coverage may be a good idea.

Remember that age, health status and military rank can affect eligibility and coverage limits. Higher-ranking members are typically less risky to insure since they aren’t as likely to go to combat or high-risk areas as lower-ranking members.

The application for private life insurance is much more thorough, typically requiring lifestyle, occupation and health questions. Plus, you might have to qualify for a medical exam. Comparing life insurance policies will help you find the best price for your age, health, policy type and coverage needs.

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DO YOU NEED ADDITIONAL COVERAGE OR PRIVATE LIFE INSURANCE?

If you’re considering buying additional life insurance from private insurers, consider:

  • Available benefits and riders
  • Company’s financial strength rating
  • Cost
  • Death cause exclusions
  • Eligibility guidelines
  • Health
  • Policy type
  • Underwriting process
  • Your coverage needs
An illustrative image of a veteran learning how to transition military life insurance coverage.

Transitioning Military Life Insurance Coverage After Retiring From Active Duty

Veterans retiring from active duty have many obstacles when transitioning back into civilian life. Part of the financial planning process may include transitioning your military life insurance coverage to private coverage.

The VA makes converting SGLI and FSGLI an easy process. You’ll have to apply for VGLI within a year and 120 days from discharge or convert your SGLI or FSGLI to a private policy within 120 days. Spouses should convert if the service member dies, cancels SGLI or FSGLI, separates from the military or they divorce.

Contact a participating life insurance company to convert your armed forces life insurance, gather the necessary documents and complete the conversion notice. Although health questions are not a requirement, answering them could get you a lower rate.

How to Transition Your Coverage

When you retire from the military, you can convert your SGLI to VGLI or a private policy or cancel SGLI coverage.

Although you have 485 days to convert to VGLI, you don’t have to prove your health status if you do so within 240 days. If you convert after 240 days, you will have to prove insurability, which could jeopardize your eligibility and cost. Once you have VGLI, you can convert it to a private policy anytime.

Disabled veterans who qualify for SGLI-DE should fill out the SGLV 8715 form to get up to two years of free SGLI coverage. You’ll get a notice 20 months post-separation date advising when your SGLI-DE coverage and conversion options end.

Requirements
Documents
  • Active duty, National Guard and Reservists have 120 days from separation to convert SGLI to VGLI or private coverage
  • Spouses should convert FSGLI to a private policy within 120 days of the service member’s separation, divorce, death or termination of SGLI or FSGLI coverage
  • Children are not eligible to convert their FSGLI coverage
  • Veterans can convert VGLI anytime
  • Active duty SGLI: SGLI conversion notice and DD-214
  • National Guard and Reserves SGLI: SGLI conversion notice, NGB-22 or separation orders and LES
  • FSGLI: FSGLI conversion notice, service member’s LES and either proof of separation, divorce, death or SGLI/FSGLI coverage termination
  • VGLI: VGLI conversion notice
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MANAGING YOUR MILITARY LIFE INSURANCE POLICY

Service members can verify, change or restore SGLI or FSGLI coverage and beneficiaries by logging into their milConnect account and accessing the SGLI Online Enrollment System (SOES).

Veterans can access their policy to update their beneficiaries by logging into the Prudential Life Insurance account or filling out the VGLI Beneficiary Designation form (SGLV 8721) and faxing it to OSGLI.

Your most recent VGLI billing notice or LES will also have coverage information.

Military Life Insurance FAQ

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about life insurance for military veterans and active duty members to help you understand the key aspects and benefits available:

Do veterans get free life insurance?
What is the best insurance provider for a veteran?
What is the best insurance provider for an active military member?
Does SGLI cover off-duty death?
Does military life insurance pay for suicidal death?
What is the average insurance cost for a military member?
How much is VA life insurance?
How to convert SGLI to VGLI?
Do military spouses get life insurance?

Expert Insight on Military Life Insurance

  1. When should military members seek private life insurance instead of military life insurance?
  2. For active duty military looking for private coverage, what considerations, like coverage exclusions/inclusions, should they look for when buying private life insurance?
  3. For veterans looking for private coverage, what considerations, like coverage exclusions/inclusions, should they look for when buying private life insurance?
  4. What can military members/veterans expect from the private life insurance underwriting process that differs from civilians and how can they prepare themselves for it?
Sandy Boenig
Sandy BoenigAFC(r)
LTC Jerry Quinn (USAR)
LTC Jerry Quinn (USAR)Chief Operating Officer & Secretary at the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA)

Additional Resources

Financial planning helps protect your assets, health and family with benefits and coverage. The following resources provide relevant and valuable information for your situation.

  • American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association: AAFMAA can help you achieve your financial goals through life insurance mortgages and wealth building. Use its resources, tools and calculators to make financial decisions with confidence.
  • Benefits.gov: This website helps you find benefits you’re eligible for, including disaster assistance, SSA benefits, loans and medical assistance.
  • Disabled American Veterans: DAV offers many resources to disabled veterans, including employment and volunteer connections, help with VA benefits, medical transportation and transitioning to civilian life.
  • DoD Casualty Assistance Program: This program assigns a Casualty Assistance Officer to help families navigate assistance and benefits after a service member is injured or killed.
  • GI Rights Network: Call the GI Rights Hotline from anywhere worldwide for counseling and information about GI rights, military discharges, AWOL and UA.
  • HealthCare.gov: Veterans can learn about their health care options, including TRICARE, coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace and the VA Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA).
  • Military Benefit Association: The MBA offers life insurance, TRICARE supplements, hospital and legal services for active duty military members and veterans, plus discounts on Liberty Mutual auto and home insurance.
  • Military.com: Get access to military news, employment resources for veterans, benefits, family and spousal support from a staff full of veterans, retirees and their spouses.
  • Military Connection: Access savings, employment assistance and opportunities, education, licensing and more using this online military directory.
  • National Military Family Association: NMFA offers scholarships for military spouses and assistance for children and families to attend camps, retreats and other programs.
  • National Resource Directory: The NRD is a resource database that helps service members, veterans and their families with recovery, rehab and reintegration for wounded warriors.
  • Navy Federal Credit Union: Besides bank accounts, loans and credit cards, Navy Federal offers tools and calculators to help with financial planning.
  • The Military Wallet: Learn about military and veteran benefits, discounts, news and financial planning from a USAF veteran and active duty National Guard member.
  • USAA Insurance: Along with insurance, banking and investment products, USAA has a robust resource library dedicated to military life, whether you’re considering joining or ending your service.

About Mandy Sleight


Mandy Sleight headshot

Mandy Sleight is a licensed property, casualty, life and health insurance agent with 20 years of experience in the industry. She has worked for major insurance companies like State Farm and Nationwide, and most recently as the Operations Coordinator for a startup employee benefits company.

Sleight holds a business administration and management degree from the University of Baltimore and a master's in business administration from Southern New Hampshire University. She uses her vast knowledge of insurance and personal finance to create easy-to-understand and engaging content to help readers make smarter choices with their budgets and finances.


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