My doctor recently told me that I have nine months to live. I’ve always wanted to serve my country by having a career in the Navy, but after just three years, I was medically discharged at the age of 24. I thought this meant I could no longer serve my country. However, thanks to a tip from one of my doctors, I learned about a little-known Veterans Affairs insurance benefit, and that led me to work with a special unit that has given me the hope I need to continue serving my country, though in a different capacity.
That benefit is called Accelerated Benefits Option, available through my Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Disability Extension coverage. It allows servicemembers who are diagnosed with nine months or less to live to receive an advance benefit payment of up to half of the value of their SGLI coverage. The money is tax free and can be used for any purpose like paying off a mortgage, paying medical expenses or traveling. The remaining money will be paid to the beneficiaries.
It took nine relapses and several bone marrow transplants for me to get this far. My doctor said that I should use the benefit to travel and enjoy the rest of my time, and provided me with the phone number. This was not a call I ever wanted to make. When I got up the nerve to dial, a man named Robert in the insurance outreach unit answered the phone and explained the benefit to me. He was supportive and caring, and worked with me and the Navy to gather the information. This allowed me to focus on feeling better, rather than filling out paperwork. There were other people involved in getting this done, like Erica, who was also kind and supportive, but Robert was my lifeline to VA’s benefits.
Although receiving the money in less than three weeks was wonderful, what was even more valuable was the intangible thing that Robert gave me – hope! Because the outreach unit deals with many severely injured and ill Veterans like myself, they have an understanding of our needs that allows them to go beyond just discussing the paperwork. Robert talked about other Veterans who got the benefit and then outlived their diagnosis. There were days when I felt like giving up, but his stories helped me to believe.
Once I had the money, I figured that was the end of my contact with the insurance center. Much to my surprise, Robert and Erica both followed up. I told Robert about my mother. She’s been my caregiver, staying up to take care of me at night or driving me to classes during the day. Then Robert told me about other VA benefits I could be eligible for, which I have since received.
Today, I’ve got my master’s degree from Brandman University, which has named a scholarship after me, and have applied to law school so I can become a Veterans advocate. And, as soon as I get past the chemo side effects, I’m going to use the accelerated benefit funds to take my Mom to Maui.
Thanks to Robert and Erica, and what I’ve achieved with VA’s help, I hope to soon beat my terminal cancer diagnosis and feel like I can still serve my country by helping other Veterans in giving them the same hope Robert gave me.
Note: The Accelerated Benefits Option is available to servicemembers with Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) or SGLI Disability Extension, military spouses covered under Family SGLI, and Veterans covered under Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI).
If you would like to know more about the Accelerated Benefits Option, please call the Office of Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance at 800-419-1473. The applications for accelerated benefits are SGLV 8284 (for SGLI and VGLI members) or SGLV 8284A (for spouses covered under Family SGLI).