FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Money is available to heroes whose lives have been permanently altered by a traumatic injury.

Traumatic Servicemember's Group Life Insurance lump-sum payouts are available to Soldiers - active duty, Reserve or National Guard - and members of the other armed services who have standard SGLI deducted from their paychecks. The additional $1 premium is automatically bundled with the monthly SGLI premium, an amount so small many don't realize it is being withheld.

But the unobtrusive TSGLI premium can pay big dividends to those seriously injured or unable to carry out the activities of daily life, said Sgt. Jesse Duckett, a Soldier and family support specialist. Duckett currently concentrates his efforts on facilitating the TSGLI program for Fort Lewis Soldiers and those assigned throughout the Northwest. He described himself as a "middle man" in the process, someone to speed along the paperwork, give advice or answer questions. He acts as a go-between among claimants, case workers, medical officials and Human Resources Command in Alexandria, Va.

Duckett said some eligible Soldiers may not realize they qualify for the one-time, tax-free payments, which range from $25,000 to $100,000.

"TSGLI is for Soldiers who are involved in a traumatic event that led to traumatic injury," Duckett said, "things like improvised explosive device blasts, but also things like civilian car accidents."

Rather than income replacement, the money is intended for unforeseen expenses related to the injuries, paying for Soldiers' family travel to join them at medical facilities or defraying the cost of specialized equipment to resume their lives. The intent is to help service members focus on their medical recovery rather than worry about finances.

Duckett said the program addresses the nature and severity of the injury rather than how it occurred, deepening the pool of possible beneficiaries.

"You often think overseas in a combat zone, you think Iraq or Afghanistan," said the HRC specialist, "but really TSGLI is set up on a broader spectrum, on or off the battlefield, on or off post. It could be a reservist riding a bike on a non-drill weekend and hit by a car. It really is a program for everybody, as long as the Soldier is enrolled in SGLI."

The program has been in effect since December 2005, but with the rapid Armywide pace of operations, the rollout of TSGLI didn't receive the notice that Department of the Army officials had hoped. That's why HRC recently deployed Duckett and 12 other human resource specialists to the highest troop concentrations throughout the country.

As the local facilitator of the program, Duckett said he sees about 50 Soldiers per week. But he would like that number to be much higher.

Each case is different, Duckett said, but the administrative requirements are the same: every part of the claim must be documented - often a challenge with Soldiers moving among multiple medical facilities.

Traumatic events or injuries include "amputations, paralysis, loss of sight, hearing, speech, burns, coma or other injuries that lead to loss of activities of daily living - eating, bathing, dressing - the things you need to do in order to sustain life. You're dependent on somebody else," Duckett said.

The Veteran's Administration has identified 43 injuries and combinations of injuries and has reserved Category No, 44 for what was not included in the first 43. The insurance industry has assisted the VA in determining awards for each type of trauma.

"Whether your quadriplegic, paraplegic, hemiplegic, it's $100,000," Duckett said. "An amputated limb, arm or leg, is $50,000. Losing the index finger and thumb of the same hand is $25,000. There are combinations of all of them."

Soldiers can download claim forms from the Web site at www.TSGLI.army.mil.

Don Kramer is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Thu July 3rd, 2008 at 17:14