Retroactive Traumatic Injury Benefits, No Matter Where You Were Injured

By Ruth Berkheimer

Anthony Radetic, a combat Veteran who served as an Army Blackhawk Helicopter pilot and a member of Special Forces, was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident in 2004 while stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Although his injuries left him with complete paralysis of both legs, he wasn’t eligible to receive a payment under the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection Program (TSGLI).

But Anthony’s story doesn’t end there. Anthony just recently received a TSGLI payment for his loss thanks to the Veterans Benefit Act of 2010. At the time of Anthony’s injury, TSGLI benefits were payable to all Servicemembers who incurred losses resulting from injuries incurred on or after December 1, 2005 and those who suffered losses from injuries incurred between October 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005 if they were deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF).

The Veterans Benefit Act of 2010 expands the TSGLI program and removes the requirement that losses incurred during the retroactive period must have occurred while serving in support of OEF/OIF. This means service members like Anthony who incurred losses out of theater during the retroactive period may be eligible to receive a benefit of $25,000 to $100,000.

Anthony’s injuries haven’t slowed him down one bit. He’s recently participated in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games and has been very active in the National Disabled Veterans Winter and Summer Sports Clinics. In fact, it was at the most recent Winter Sports Clinic in Colorado last February, where Anthony had the good fortune of meeting Allan McDonald of The Prudential Insurance Company of America. Prudential, which partners with VA to provide life insurance coverage to Service members and Veterans, was a corporate sponsor of the event.

After hearing Anthony’s story, Mr. McDonald told him about the change to the TSGLI program that would take effect on October 1, 2011. When Anthony realized that he would be eligible to receive a payment for his loss, he commented, “This is awesome news, it doesn’t get much better than that!”

Although Anthony was on active duty when his injury occurred, National Guard and Reserve members who suffered qualifying losses during the retroactive period are also eligible for TSGLI, even if their injuries were not related to military service. For example, a reservist who suffered a loss as a result of a car accident while driving to a restaurant with his family may qualify for TSGLI benefits.

In the first two weeks following the effective date of the law, 117 claims for a total of $7.7 million have already been paid. VA is conducting an extensive public notice campaign to get the word out to those who now qualify and the branches of service are reviewing their records to try to identify individuals who may now be eligible for payment.

Know someone who was traumatically injured in service since October 7, 2001? Help our outreach effort by passing the word!

Ruth Berkheimer is an Insurance Specialist at the Philadelphia VA Regional Office and Insurance Center.