By Human Resources CommandJanuary 19, 2007
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Army News Service, Jan. 19, 2007) - Dec. 1, 2006 marked the one-year anniversary of the establishment of Traumatic Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance. During the first year, the Congressionally-mandated insurance program provided more than $179 million to traumatically-injured members of the Armed Services. Of that, more than $113 million was paid to Army Soldiers - more than twice the next highest service.
While those figures represent success in terms of its mission to provide financial help for traumatically injured Soldiers, the program still faces challenges with educating servicemembers about the program and dispelling some myths that have grown around TSGLI during its short existence.
TSGLI was created to help servicemembers and their families get through tough financial times that often occur after serious injuries. Approved TSGLI claimants receive a one-time payment of up to $100,000, based on the type and severity of the injury. That money might be the difference that allows a Soldier's family to stay with him or her during recovery, help with unforeseen expenses or give them a financial head-start on life after recovery.
From the Army's point of view, the program faces three interrelated challenges: improving the claim-approval rate; decreasing the claim-processing time; and ensuring that all Soldiers are aware of TSGLI, understand its purpose, and know how to file a correctly prepared claim.
According to Col. John F. Sackett, who leads the TSGLI Division under the U.S. Army Physical Disability Agency (USAPDA), the ratio of approvals to denials is consistent with the other services, with an approval rate of 48 percent. The average time for the Army to process a claim is 12 days, which is longer than the other services due to the volume of claims coming in from casualties in the war on terror.
Sackett believes both situations can be improved through outreach educating Soldiers, healthcare providers, counselors, and advocates.
"Our main focus is on determining which Soldiers are eligible to receive this payment, based on the claim they file, and then making sure eligible Soldiers receive payment as quickly as possible so this money is available while they recover from their injury."
One of the biggest barriers, Sackett said, "is the lack of knowledge and general misconceptions that are out there regarding TSGLI. These barriers create situations where Soldiers who are not eligible file claims; or Soldiers who are eligible file claims without supplying the documentation allowing us to adjudicate their claim quickly."
To reduce these barriers, the Army has launched a significant outreach program that includes a new logo, tagline, messaging, educational materials, a recently overhauled Web site and media outreach, along with numerous appearances and briefings at significant military events and Military Treatment Facilities like Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
While the overall focus of the outreach program is on educating claimants and the people who care for them, specific messages have been created to help dispel three myths that have grown up around the program:
Myth #1: TSGLI is just for combat injuries.
Any qualifying injury incurred after Dec. 1, 2005, is eligible for TSGLI coverage, regardless of whether it was in combat or not. The only exception is the retroactive program, which covers Soldiers injured beginning October 7, 2001, through November 30, 2005, but only if they were injured in a Combat Zone Tax Exclusion area supporting Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Myth #2: A healthcare provider's statement is all that is needed to verify a TSGLI claim.
While TSGLI claims won't be approved without a certification from a healthcare provider, additional documentation must be provided to substantiate the certification. The documentation may include medical reports and tests that establish the type of injury and the time the Soldier was incapacitated as a result. Specific information is available on the TSGLI website.
Myth #3: TSGLI replaces a traumatically injured Soldier's income.
TSGLI is a one-time, tax-free payment that can help a Soldier get through short-term difficulties related to his or her injury.
With these myths dispelled, TSGLI will be better positioned to help eligible Soldiers in an even more timely manner.
"As claimants become better educated about TSGLI, it can't help but speed up our processes, which allows us to better accomplish our objective of helping heroes in times of need," Sackett said.
Sackett expects the new Web site to help dispel the myths.
"With more of the key information online, people trying to access the programs will better understand the eligibility and claims process. In addition, people who care for Soldiers, such as family members, counselors and healthcare providers, will have information tailored to their particular roles in the process."
New features on the site include user-friendly graphics; detailed program information; outreach materials; program statistics that detail claims and dollars paid; and an online discussion forum where users can log in, post questions or comments and interact with others to share best practices and answer common questions.
For more information about TSGLI, contact the U.S. Army TSGLI service center at (800) 237-1336 or TSGLI@conus.army.mil. You can also visit the Web site at www.tsgli.army.mil.