Contingency planning is one area all branches of the United States military excel. There is an old phrase coined by Carl von Clausewitz “(the) fog of war,” used to explain the uncertainty of war.
You don’t know every single contingency that can arise on the battlefield, so flexibility and preparation is the key to overcoming the unexpected.
That is also true of military family planning, especially where insurance is concerned. You may not be sure what kinds of coverage might be needed when dealing with a permanent change of station, move, or a combat deployment. There are some bases to cover and some things to avoid when choosing the types of insurance your military family might need.
Managing Your Needs
There are several basic types of insurance that are available for military families, but you can start selecting your coverage by setting your priorities first. Are you PCSing or deploying within three months? Your concerns should include:
- Dependent care
- Protection for vehicles
- Protection for property left behind temporarily while on TDY or deployment
- Protection for property left behind for a PCS move
- Pet care
- Coverage for travel/transport
Not all troops have the same insurance needs, but it’s good to consider all your options to avoid overlooking an important detail or aspect of coverage you need. Remember, not all deployments last the same amount of time for all troops. Working on time-sensitive needs can help you set priorities.
What You Need to Know About Insurance
There is no such thing as implied coverage. If an insurance policy does not specifically mention a type of coverage or a type of property damage that is considered compensable, you do not have coverage for that issue.
That is especially true of water-related damage. Your insurance policy must specifically reference flooding, rising water, water damage, or similar verbiage, otherwise, you do not have coverage.
It is best to ask your insurance agent whether water damage is covered. Additionally, how the damage can be covered if not by the standard plan?
Water damage is one of the leading causes of problems for those with insurance. Some consumers assume floods or other contingencies are covered even though their policies do not mention these issues. Avoid learning the hard way, and make sure your policy explicitly covers property damage and similar situations.
What’s more, consumers sometimes fail to ask under what conditions the coverages they do have are null and void. Do not fail to ask this question before you pay for any insurance coverage.
Five Kinds of Insurance Coverage for a Military Family
Car Insurance (Not What You Might Think!)
If a military family is sent overseas on PCS orders, they may or may not be permitted to bring a privately-owned vehicle depending on the assignment, the major command, the rules of the host nation, and other concerns.
If you must place a vehicle into storage, you can save money and protect your vehicle. Allstate.com reminds consumers of their company’s specific insurance programs and advises that canceling your car insurance is not ideal. Reducing your insurance from carrying liability and collision, in addition to comprehensive coverage or comprehensive alone, is the best solution for stored vehicles.
There is an important caveat for vehicles stored 30 days or longer: once you return from your assignment, you cannot drive the vehicle legally until you restore your other coverages.
You are not legally permitted to drive the car out of the storage facility until you have reinstated the minimum state-required coverages.
Carrying comprehensive-only coverage will lower your monthly bill for the vehicle. It could be an advantage over asking a friend to store the vehicle in a private garage, depending on circumstances.
Car Insurance For Transport Overseas
If you are permitted to ship a privately-owned vehicle (POV) to or from an overseas military base, you may need to carry insurance to protect your car and its contents while en route to your next duty station.
There are no standardized rules for this, as much will depend on the host nation’s laws and your gaining command’s policies.
The best thing to do when trying to decide coverage for a POV is to ask your gaining base sponsor. You should also call your current auto insurance provider to see what options you have.
Your insurance will cover a limited number of incidents and may expire the moment you drive the vehicle away from the port of entry.
Renters Insurance or Homeowners Insurance
Renters insurance and homeowner’s insurance policies are not all created equal; your coverage options may vary based on state law, company policies, and other variables. Renters or homeowner’s insurance is strongly recommended if you must leave your home for any period.
It’s not just fires and theft you have to worry about. Natural disasters, electrical storms, wildfires, and many other problems could affect your living space while you are gone. Insurance coverage won’t keep these things from happening to you, but they do offer peace of mind during your military duty.
When arranging coverage for a house or apartment, remember the rule above – if your policy does not explicitly mention fire, flood, theft, or other issues, your policy does not cover it.
You also need to consider obtaining a limited power of attorney if you need someone to manage the policy, make a claim, or take other actions on your behalf if required. A limited power of attorney must accurately describe what permissions you give, so be sure to talk this matter over with an insurance rep first.
Some many reasons and situations can justify pet insurance. While you may not be familiar with this type of coverage or know who the providers are, there are reputable companies such as USAA offering pet coverage, especially for troops.
Pet insurance could even be, as USAA advertises, available overseas. Depending on the type of coverage you need, you could find a policy that handles both emergency care, diagnostic and testing and help with chronic pet conditions.
Pet insurance has the disadvantage of not being as widely adopted as other kinds, which is why searching for a reputable company is crucial. It’s not enough to search the Better Business Bureau ratings or to read customer reviews—you may need to go the extra mile and ask your fellow military members if they have had good experiences with one insurer or another.
Why choose pet insurance? If you are assigned overseas, your pet will need to visit the vet several times for vaccinations and health screening. Pet insurance can help offset these costs.
Natural Disaster Insurance
You may not be in an area that is prone to disasters, but what if you receive orders to military bases that are known for their natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes?
When you PCS to a disaster-prone area, insurance coverage typically won’t offer the same kind of broad protections you might enjoy now without unique policy additions or modifications.
You may be required to carry disaster-specific coverage (similar to carrying separate flood insurance) in these regions, and it will be necessary to talk to a sponsor and an insurance rep from that area to learn what specific coverages may or may not apply.
Don’t get burned because you assumed a certain kind of situation would be handled by your insurance policy only to learn that that specific kind of insurance requires a modification to a “standard” plan.
Ask about deductibles, ask what renders your coverage null and void, what specific types of issues are NOT covered and why, etc. You will be happy you asked, because you may go years without needing to make a claim, only to have a sudden need later on.
Military members have a life insurance plan known as SGLI, which stands for Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance. SGLI automatically covers servicemembers for up to a maximum of $400,000 unless the service member opts for lower coverage.
Premiums vary with circumstances, but this is an important decision to make. The relative safety of certain military career fields makes some less inclined to consider taking out more coverage from a private provider.
Here are some questions to consider that might help you decide on a good life insurance policy: does the amount of your SGLI coverage adequately provide for your family if you die on duty? If you die as the result of military duty, en route, or returning from military duty? Is this enough life insurance for you and your family in case something should happen?
There is no one-size-fits-all advice about life insurance coverage. Whatever you choose, your life insurance policy provides you and your family with the reassurance needed that financial aid is there if anything should ever happen.
What You Need to Know About Signing Up for Insurance
Buying insurance is tricky, and there is often a fear of being denied coverage for any number of reasons. Some feel the need to be less than forthcoming on their insurance sign-up forms, but this is never a good thing to do. Why?
- Lying, deliberate omission, or misrepresenting facts about your circumstances to sign up for insurance can lead to policy cancellation, loss of benefits payments, even criminal prosecution depending on circumstances.
- Insurance fraud investigation is a multi-million dollar a year industry, and many people fail to take into account the level of refinement used to develop insurance fraud cases or an insurer’s motivation to keep insurance fraud to a minimum.
- Honesty is the best policy when signing up for any insurance.
- If your insurance policy does not specifically mention a specific type of coverage, you do not have it.
It is best to aggressively shop around for an insurer and research the money-saving options available to you. The terms, conditions, coverages, and payouts will all vary by insurer and circumstances of your situation.
Don’t take the first good-looking policy you find. Read the fine print very carefully and make the most informed insurance choices you can.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News.
|VA Home Loans & Natural Disasters||Military Family Benefits|
|Last Will and Testaments Before Deploying||How to Insure Your Car Overseas|
|Natural Disasters at Military Bases||Military Pets: Traveling and Moving|