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Comfortable in our homes on American soil, the rest of us have a duty as well, to honor and protect our service members while they are away for training or on active duty. One of the ways we can do this is to make sure that our sons and daughters serving overseas are well taken care of at home. This includes looking after their financial matters, including car insurance.
Car Insurance for Service Members
Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance, SGLI, is provided to military personnel by the U.S. Government. Once separated from active or reserve duty, this insurance can be maintained, paid for, and coverage continued by the former service members themselves.
For service members with automobiles, no such government benefits exist. Independent, private insurance providers are left with the task of insuring the vehicles of America’s fighting men and women, often to their detriment.
Military Friendly Car Insurance Companies
According to a recently published report online by MSNBC, it is a myth that service members pay more for car insurance. Many companies, they say, offer discounts to active duty personnel depending on a person’s rank and the amount of time they have spent in the service.
There are some large insurance providers, founded by ex-service members, that take especially good care of active duty military personnel and their families.
The largest insurance company that takes care of active duty military personnel is USAA, which was founded in 1922 by 25 U.S. Army officers.
They banded together to insure each other’s automobiles after being turned down everywhere else. Today, USAA offers a complete line of insurance products and provides financial services to thousands of satisfied customers. USAA takes the principals of their founders seriously, to serve the public with honesty, loyalty, and integrity.
Armed Forces Insurance (AFI) is another company that serves military personnel around the world. AFI is a cooperative company that is owned and managed by its policyholders. Founded in 1887, AFI has continuously served active, retired, and former military personnel for more than 125 years.
As former military members themselves, the leadership team of AFI, understands the unique needs of and challenges faced by servicemen and women. They provide not only car insurance, but homeowner’s and renter’s insurance among other products.
Available Military Discounts
The website Military.com, gives helpful advice to service members about to be deployed overseas. They advise soldiers to carefully examine policy guidelines, to understand how coverage will be handled if your vehicle is stored over a long period of time.
Just as there are variations in military pay, there are also variations in auto insurance coverage and therefore premium rates, if you are serving in a combat zone. As mentioned above, Geico offers discounts up to 15% for qualified military customers. Geico actively advertises their military friendly, economical car insurance rates.
A commission of former U.S. Military members has assisted Geico in developing special plans and programs for service members. There are discounts to related military organizations and special discounts for service members who have been activated under emergency circumstances and sent to combat zones.
Another top five auto insurance company, Allstate, has begun to relax its long-standing guidelines for military personnel returning from overseas deployment and active war zones. Allstate has decided to stand behind car insurance policies that may have lapsed while military customers were serving abroad.
Those soldiers who were serving their country in Iraq or Afghanistan will be treated as if their coverage was continuous and will not have to pay for the period of time their coverage may have lapsed due to non-payment.
Organizations that Fight for the Military
While American servicemen and women stationed overseas fight for us, there are several major national organizations that continue the fight here at home for fair and reasonable car insurance rates for returning military personnel.
The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, PIA, is one such organization. PIA has called on insurance commissioners in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to maintain rates and guarantee affordable auto insurance coverage to all armed forces personnel.
PIA represents professional insurance agents across the country. Their membership is a cross section of America and as such, the PIA membership has adopted the slogan, “Local Agents Serving Main Street America.” Since 1931, PIA has fought for the rights of servicemen and women serving our country. The group is responsible for many legislative and policy changes that have benefited tens of thousands of auto insurance customers.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, NAIC, is another organization that continues the daily fight here at home to protect the rights and property of military personnel. The NAIC advises that returning service members review their insurance coverage to make sure they are protected no matter where in the world they may be stationed.
NAIC provides a number of helpful and potentially money saving tips for active duty military personnel. Insurance laws vary depending on the state in which you live, so it is important to check on available coverage rules in your area before leaving for active duty.
Some states permit service members to suspend their coverage for extended periods of time while they are away. Other states may not permit this and would require continuous coverage of some sort.
Some states may allow for limitations to be imposed on required coverage amounts. In many cases, some coverage may be suspended, such as liability or collision, while other coverage such as comprehensive may continue. Comprehensive coverage will protect a stored vehicle from damages due to vandalism or other causes while it is stored during a service member’s absence.
Some states may require that a service member file an affidavit of non-use with the state department of motor vehicles, in order to avoid citations or fines for failing to maintain proper vehicle insurance.
While we would naturally expect that active duty military would pay less for their car insurance while fighting for our country, the unfortunate truth is that many servicemen and women actually pay more for their car insurance, while they are away and when they return from service overseas.
Disabled Veterans Face Especially Difficult Challenges
While active service members find it easier than ever to find fair and affordable car insurance coverage, it is often hard to avoid discrimination when shopping for insurance if you are a returning service veteran with a disability.
Federal laws prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities and they may not be denied insurance coverage. However, car insurance for disabled persons is anything but cheap! Insurance providers find ways to increase premiums or even turn away disabled persons whose vehicles are modified to accommodate their disabilities.
Originally, the rules on automobile modifications were created to disqualify cars used for drag racing or that were modified to enhance or improve their performance. Some insurance companies now disqualify modified vehicles or charge sharply increased premiums for vehicles that have a wheel chair ramp, lift, or hand controls to assist a disabled driver.
When shopping for a car insurance provider, persons with disabilities should fully disclose any vehicle modifications that have been made including the addition of ramps, hand controls and lifts.
These include sirens and alarms for hearing-impaired individuals, amputee rings, and floor mounted steering controls, adjustable seats and belts, as well as pedal extenders. Any special equipment should be installed professionally. Equipment you travel with, such as a scooter, wheelchair, or other devices should be covered under your auto policy as well.
A Gap in Coverage
There are a number of issues to consider for service members about to be deployed overseas. The United States armed forces have always provided life insurance for its members and survivor benefits for families that are left behind.
Medical and disability benefits are also available to service members who have been injured while on duty as well they should be. Retirees of the armed forces also receive military pensions after completing a minimum of 20 years of active or reserve service.
Active duty personnel receive other benefits including military based housing or family allowances for off base accommodations. These benefits are to be expected while away from home. What the U.S. military doesn’t provide, at any point, is cheap car insurance for men and women serving here in the United States.
An even larger concern is continuing automobile coverage for service members who are deployed for a number of months or years away from their homes. Often, active duty personnel are left with few choices when it comes to protecting one of their own most valuable personal possessions, their automobiles.
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