Are Military Death Benefits Paid During Government Shutdowns?

January 25, 2019
Melissa Schreur
sgli during shutdown

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What happens to military death benefits and the SGLI?

Military families are resilient and can handle a lot of challenges.

It’s what makes us a unique and a vital part of our nation’s defense. Many service members cannot do their jobs well without a firm foundation at home. Every year we dread the news that government operations will cease and paychecks will be on hold for an unknown period of time.

Thankfully the military banks and organizations work hard to step in and make sure families can stay afloat financially.

Although, the best way to prepare for the annual government shutdown is to beef up your emergency savings.

While families can balance forgoing the chicken from the commissary or make alternate childcare arrangements, dealing with a delay in death benefits is a whole other story.

What death benefits are put on hold during these shutdowns?

Before you freak out, do understand that not all death benefits are delayed in the event a service member passes away during a shutdown!

The loss of a service member brings emotional and financial stress on a family. Understanding your benefits and having a financial plan in place is crucial to making sure your family is in the best position to handle this transition.

$100,000 Death Gratuity Pay Outs

This is a benefit put into place to help families deal with immediate expenses in the event a service member dies. It is paid regardless of how a service member dies and is separate from the military life insurance program.

Usually there is military-funded travel to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, or elsewhere for the dignified transfer or military funeral or memorial. During a government shutdown neither of these benefits are available.

That being said, this is all on paper. The one amazing characteristic about the military is we take care of our own. I can’t imagine newly bereaved families actually being denied military-funded travel to partake in a funeral or memorial.

As far as the $100,000 death gratuity goes, families will like have to wait until operations resume to receive this benefit.

SGLI Service Members Group Life Insurance Status

As a life insurance professional it does raise concerns for me that the SGLI is paid out of service member’s LES. This begs me to ask, if it’s paid out of this and the paychecks are on hold does this mean the policies are subject to cancellation?

In the real world for insurance, policies can easily cancel if premium payments are not sent in on time. Granted not right away as insurance carriers are required to issue a bill with an intent to cancel notice. These notices usually include a lapse date to catch up any past due premiums.

Due to the fact that SGLI payments are funded through separate legislation, it’s my understanding that the policy stays in force.

This is certainly a relief. My hope is that no family ever has to deal with such a matter during the shutdown!


The build up of the government shutting down each year does cause families financial stress that can certainly be avoided. If only congress could find a way to get along and negotiate ahead of time.

We cannot control these external factors but we can control how much life insurance we carry outside of the military. Most experts recommend having supplement life insurance coverage while serving in the military.

That way you can provide enough financial protection to your beneficiaries as well as have a plan in place when you exit the military. It just brings a whole new level of peace of mind for your family. Not to mention it’s more affordable than you think!

Find out how to get started protecting your family today!

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Melissa Schreur

Melissa Schreur has 16+ years helping consumers choose the best insurance protection. As a military spouse, she is dedicated to delivering world-class service to her customers. Insure The Heroes Life Insurance Agency is owned and operated by Melissa. She helps military families(past & present), parents and business owners secure affordable term life insurance coverage.