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 of his legs, he was not eligible to receive a payment under the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection Program (TSGLI) because he was not deployed in support of either Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) when his accident occurred, a stipulation of the original legislation governing the program.
TSGLI became effective December 1, 2005 and was designed to provide payments to severely injured Servicemembers who suffer a qualifying loss due to a traumatic injury. TSGLI payments range from $25,000 to $100,000 depending on the severity of the injury. For those injured on or after December 1, 2005, TSGLI provides payment for qualifying injuries regardless of the geographic location where those injuries occurred. Originally, TSGLI also provided retroactive payments for those injured between October 7, 2001 and November 30, 2005, but only if the injuries occurred while deployed in support of OEF or OIF.
Since being injured in 2004, Mr. Radetic has been very active in the National Disabled Veterans Winter and Summer Sports Clinics, and recently participated for the first time in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. While attending the Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass, Colorado in February of this year, 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 Servicemembers and Veterans, was a corporate sponsor of the Winter games. Prudential executives and managers attended the games to conduct outreach to disabled Veterans about VA life insurance programs.
After learning his story, Mr. McDonald told Anthony about the passage of the Veterans Benefits Act of 2010 that removes the requirement that injuries incurred during the retroactive period must have occurred while serving in support of OEF/OIF. Since Mr. Radetic’s injury was caused by a motor vehicle accident in Alabama during the retroactive period, this change to the TSGLI program, which will take effect on October 1, 2011, will allow Anthony to be paid the benefit soon after that date. When Anthony heard the news that he would receive the TSGLI benefit for his injuries, 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 were injured during the retroactive period and suffered a qualifying loss are also eligible for a TSGLI payment, even if the cause was not related to military service, such as a civilian automobile accident or severe injury which occurred while working around their home.
Ruth Berkheimer is an Insurance Specialist at the Philadelphia VA Regional Office and Insurance Center.