This article is part of a series dealing with common misconceptions about federal benefits and retirement. These articles are written by John Grobe and Ehren Clovis.
Myth-conception: If you want more life insurance under the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program, you must wait until a FEGLI open season to get it.
Reality: You may be able to acquire more FEGLI coverage by providing medical evidence of insurability or by experiencing a “qualifying life event” (QLE).
While counseling employees over the years, I’ve heard many of them bemoan the fact that they didn’t sign up for more life insurance through the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program when the opportunities presented themselves. If you’re one of those people, you’ll be pleased to hear that it may not be too late!
Most people are aware that employees can sign up for FEGLI coverage as new employees and during FEGLI open seasons, but there are inherent limitations on those opportunities: you can’t necessarily become a “new” employee every time you want more coverage, and you may not want to wait for a FEGLI open season. (After all, there have been only 9 FEGLI open seasons since 1954.)
But there are two lesser known opportunities for increasing your FEGLI coverage. Employees may be able to acquire additional FEGLI coverage:
- By providing medical evidence of insurability, or
- By electing additional coverage in connection with a “qualifying life event” (QLE).
Let’s look at those options —
Providing medical evidence of insurability. According to the current FEGLI Program Booklet, “as long as at least one year has passed since the effective date of your last waiver of life insurance coverage, you may provide satisfactory medical information at your own expense using the Request for Life Insurance (SF 2822).” You may not remember “waiving” FEGLI coverage, but the way this system is designed, every time you complete a FEGLI election form and don’t elect all of the coverage you are eligible for, you are effectively “waiving” the coverage you didn’t elect. So if it’s been at least a year since you signed an SF 2817 election form, you can initiate a new Request for Life Insurance.
It’s best to ask your HR office for this form, since they must complete and certify information on it before you can proceed. Once you have received the partially-completed form from your HR office, you must take it to your personal physician for a basic physical, at your own expense. Your physician’s office must then send the form directly to the Office of Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (OFEGLI), which will make the determination of insurability.
You can submit the SF 2817 election form at any time during this process, showing the full coverage you want to have if your request is approved. If you submit the form before OFEGLI’s decision is received, your HR office will hold this form pending a decision from OFEGLI, then make your new elections effective almost immediately upon OFEGLI’s approval. If you don’t submit the form until you’ve been notified of OFEGLI’s approval, you have 31 days from the date of OFEGLI’s approval to submit a new election form.
Your HR office will receive notice of OFEGLI’s decision and will notify you. If your request is approved, the new coverage you’ve requested will be effective as follows:
- If you didn’t have Basic life insurance, your HR office will process your enrollment for Basic coverage effective the first day you are in a pay and duty status on or after the date OFEGLI approved your request.
- If you newly elect Option A (Standard) coverage and/or Option B (Additional) coverage (or increased multiples of Option B coverage), the new coverage will be effective the first day you are in a pay and duty status after HR has both OFEGLI’s approval and your new FEGLI election form.
- You cannot enroll for Option C (Family) coverage by providing medical evidence of insurability. This coverage can be elected only in connection with a QLE.
If your request for life insurance is denied, you can wait another year and try again, if you have reason to think that the physical issue that caused the denial has been resolved.
Electing coverage in connection with a QLE: FEGLI “qualifying life events,” or QLEs, include marriage, divorce, death of spouse, or acquisition of an eligible child. With a life event, you can can enroll for Basic; enroll for Option A; enroll for or increase the multiples of Option B, and/or enroll for or increase the multiples of Option C. You must submit your new SF 2817 to your human resources office within 60 days after the life event.
Legally married same-sex couples had a special opportunity recently to make FEGLI coverage changes. Thanks to a recent Supreme Court finding, the Office of Personnel Management was able to start recognizing all legal marriages, regardless of the gender of the parties involved, effective June 26, 2013. In order to allow already married same-sex couples to take advantage of the new benefits available to them, a special election opportunity was allowed through August 26th. During this time, already married same-sex couples could make FEGLI and other benefit changes as if their marriages (and acquisition of stepchildren, if involved) had occurred on June 26th.
Special note about completing the SF 2817: Every time you complete an SF 2817, be sure to sign up for all the coverage you want. Your new election will replace your old one. If, for example, you already had Basic and 5 multiples of Option B and simply want to add Option C coverage in connection with a marriage, be sure that you sign for Basic, 5 multiples of Option B, and Option C — in order to continue the old coverage and start the new coverage.
Questions about your FEGLI coverage and how to make changes should be directed to your servicing HR office. General information is available on OPM’s FEGLI webpage.