Kansas Army National Guard Trying to Purchase Life Insurance

March 23, 2007

After searching for nearly two years for a company that would offer life insurance to Kansas Army National Guard troops, the Guard is now considering three potential options.

The Legislature is trying to correct an inequality in benefits paid to all of the beneficiaries of Kansas Guard troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The first three Kansas Guard members killed in those wars received a flat $250,000 payment, but lawmakers worried about the state liability if a large number of Guard members were killed, for example, in a plane crash. So they changed the cash payment to payment of insurance premiums.

The alteration inadvertently reduced the amount the families of the last four Kansans killed received, and a bill currently under consideration is an effort to equalize the payments.

The Guard wants to provide $250,000 in life insurance to its members, but the risk of covering people in a war zone has deterred insurance companies.

Amy Rose Herrick, an investment adviser at Woodbury Financial Services in Topeka, said she had found three policies that would cover Guard members, but some of them have exemptions.

One option, she said, had an early estimated cost of $360 per Guard member per year, even those not in a war zone.

“This is an affordable solution to help out our families without opening the state up to financial hardships,” she said.

Herrick’s comments came after a House budget committee voted to recommend a bill that would give a $250,000 death benefit to the families of those Guard members killed in combat.

But one committee member said the bill could make the state financially vulnerable.

“We started out with this funding the death benefits in 2005 and realized that was an open-ended, undefined amount of money,” said Rep. Mitch Holmes, R-Saint John. “We need to at least give (the Guard) the authority to continue looking for insurance.”

Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas National Guard, said Kansas Adjutant General Tod Bunting was reviewing the options.

Our main focus is on making sure all families of those Guard troops killed receive the same benefits,” whether it is through life insurance or a flat death benefit, she said.

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