Man's hand confidently touching symbols of digital safeguarding

Lawyer’s Practical Considerations to Safeguard Information

In light of the legal and ethical obligations that lawyers face to protect their clients’ data, defining the exact scope of what those protective measures are can often be challenging. In some cases, statutes and regulations define that standard in terms of positive results to be achieved, such as ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of systems and information. In other cases, that standard is defined in terms of the harms to be avoided – for example, to protect systems and information against unauthorized access, use, disclosure, etc. In some cases, the standard is not defined.

Regardless of the approach, meeting this standard and achieving these objectives involves implementing appropriate physical, technical, and administrative security measures. So, where do law firms begin? Although no definitive cybersecurity regulations or standards have yet to be established, the American Bar Association has begun to develop standards for “reasonable” security.

That standard rejects requirements for specific security measurements (such as firewalls, passwords, etc.) and instead adopts a fact-specific approach to business-specific security obligations. These requirements include a “process” to assess risks, identify and implement appropriate security measures responsive to those risks, verify effective implementation of the measures, and ensure that they are continually updated as the industry continues to develop.

Below are the top ten considerations that the American Bar Association recommends law offices, regardless of size, adopt and implement in order to improve their security posture:

Practical Considerations: A Top Ten List

  1. Identify the data you have
    Identifying the data you have (including yours, your clients’, data obtained during due diligence or discovery) and understand where it is stored, how it can be accessed, and how it is used
  2. Evaluate the risks to the data you have
    A risk assessment is the process of identifying vulnerabilities and threats to the information assets used by the business or firm and assessing the potential impact and harm that would result if the threat materializes. This forms the basis for determining what countermeasures (i.e., security controls) should be implemented to reduce risk to an acceptable level.
  3. Develop a written information security program
    Based on the results of the risk assessment, businesses should design and implement a security program consisting of reasonable physical, technical, and administrative security measures to manage and control the risks identified during the risk assessment. The security program should be designed to provide reasonable safeguards to control the identified risks.
  4. Oversee third party service provider agreements
    If you use third parties (e.g., providers of cloud services or outsourcing services) to store or process the data, take appropriate steps to make sure that they adequately protect the security of the data you entrust to them.
  5. Review and adjust the security program
    On a regular basis, reevaluate the risks you face and the adequacy of your security program, and adjust the program as necessary.
  6. Ensure you are in compliance with regulatory frameworks
    Determine which data (yours, your clients’, data obtained during due diligence or discovery) is subject to which laws and regulations (including special sector-specific regulations such as GLB or HIPAA) and be sure you handle it in accordance with any special requirements in those laws and regulations.
  7. Provide Training and Education
    Recognize that other lawyers and staff within the firm can be a weak link and provide appropriate training and awareness-raising reminders for all lawyers and staff.
  8. Develop an incident response plan that covers the data you have
    Plan for taking responsive steps if the business suspects or detects that a security breach has occurred; such steps include ensuring that appropriate persons within the organization are notified of the breach, that prompt action is taken in responding to the breach (e.g., stopping further information compromise and working with law enforcement), and that persons who may be injured by the breach are appropriately notified.
  9. Implement appropriate data security measures
    Keep in mind that laws and regulations governing data security may apply to all of the data in your possession, independent of ethical obligations specifically applicable to lawyers.
  10. Security is a process
    Remember, security is a process and is never complete, so you must always remain vigilant for new threats.

Through the implementation of the above practical considerations, lawyers can be assured that their cybersecurity posture will continue to improve, all while increasing compliance with cybersecurity regulatory guidelines.

Vivitec can assist you with interpreting these guidelines to ensure you’re meeting your ethical obligations to safeguard information while ensuring you’re implementing the practical steps necessary to protect you and your firm from cybersecurity threats.

Post provided by Vivitec.

IRA to MCA: How to Fund a Medicaid Compliant Annuity with a Tax-Qualified Account

While some states consider an IRA to be exempt resource, in most states this type of asset is countable and must be spent down. This may leave clients facing the complicated question of how to best spend down their retirement accounts. If the client chooses to liquidate the retirement account, they may incur sizeable tax consequences. Yet, without eliminating this countable asset, the client’s resources will exceed the limitations to qualify for Medicaid. Utilizing a Medicaid Compliant Annuity can help protect their tax-qualified accounts by preventing immediate taxation of liquidating the account and accelerating their eligibility for Medicaid.

What is a Medicaid Compliant Annuity?

A Medicaid Compliant Annuity (MCA) is a crisis spend-down tool that can help senior clients accelerate their eligibility for Medicaid benefits. The MCA is a Single Premium Immediate Annuity (SPIA) that is structured to adhere to the federal requirements of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. By converting their excess countable assets into an income stream, applicants can effectively eliminate assets for Medicaid purposes resulting in their ability to qualify for benefits sooner.

Funding an MCA with Tax-Qualified Funds

One way to avoid the tax consequences of liquidating an IRA is to transfer the funds held in the IRA to a tax-qualified Medicaid Compliant Annuity. The initial transfer to the MCA does not trigger a taxable event for the account owner if the ownership of the accounts remains the same. Instead, they are only taxed on the total distribution payments from the annuity they receive that year. This will allow the account owner to stretch the taxation of the IRA over multiple tax years rather than be assessed all at once.

When funding an MCA with a tax-qualified account, the account owner can do so using either a 60-Day Rollover or a Trustee-to-Trustee Transfer.

60-Day Rollover:

This transfer option is typically more efficient and allows the account owner to maintain more control over the transfer. To complete a 60-Day Rollover, the account owner would contact the IRA custodian company and request a complete liquidation of the account without any taxes withheld. Usually, the account owner can expect to receive the liquidation check within five to seven business days. Once received, the funds will need to be reinvested into a tax-qualified MCA within 60 days to avoid any immediate tax consequences. According to federal regulations, an account owner is limited to only one 60-Day Rollover per 365 days.

Trustee-to-Trustee Transfer:

In contrast, the Trustee-to-Trustee Transfer option is primarily facilitated by the custodian company. This transfer option may take four to six weeks to complete and takes place directly between the plan administrator of the IRA and the insurance company establishing the MCA. To utilize this option, the account owner would complete additional authorization paperwork for the transfer when submitting the MCA application. The insurance company issuing the MCA would then request the funds directly from the custodian company of the IRA. There is no limit to the number of Trustee-to-Trustee transfers that an account owner can complete in a 365-day period.

Medicaid Planning with Traditional IRAs

Using an MCA to protect your client’s IRA can help them avoid large tax consequences and prevent them from entering a higher income tax bracket. By transferring a traditional IRA to an MCA, the account owner can spread the tax consequences of liquidating the IRA over the entire annuity term. As such, the account owner can benefit from structuring the annuity with a longer term to provide a greater economic benefit.

If you have questions about how your client could benefit from using an MCA to spend down their tax-qualified accounts, schedule a Discovery Call with an advisor today!

Post provided by Krause Financial Services.

Graph showing FBI internet crime report from 2021. It shows complaints and losses over the last five years. 2.76 million total complaints and $18.7 billion total losses.

Lawyers’s Ethical and Common Law Duties to Safeguard Information

Today’s Business Reliance on Electronic Data and the Expanding Threat

Most, if not all data that businesses utilize throughout day-to-day operations is created, processed, and stored in electronic form. Technology has completely transformed the way companies conduct business and has introduced numerous benefits, including cost savings and increased productivity. Despite the many benefits technology introduces, the use of this technology in day-to-day operations also present significant risks, both from a regulatory and an ethical perspective.

The creation, usage, communication, and storage of data in electronic form introduces the risk of unauthorized access, use, disclosure, alteration, loss, or destruction of the information being stored. We all hear stories in the news of corporations of various sizes and industries falling victim to cybercrime. Today, cybercriminals are looking for every opportunity to indiscriminately attack any business that is unprepared. Therefore, its essential that all businesses implement appropriate security measures to protect their data and their customers’ data.

Regardless of industry, every business must weigh the risks of cyber-incident against the cost of preventing a potential attack. We also know that the threat landscape increases dramatically every year as bad actors design and share more creative ways of attacking systems and the data these systems hold.

Graph showing FBI internet crime report from 2021. It shows complaints and losses over the last five years. 2.76 million total complaints and $18.7 billion total losses.

Protecting your systems and your data are sound business practices that impact your effectiveness, productivity, and reputation. Furthermore, many businesses are subject to statutory or regulatory requirements with which they must comply.

In the United States, a whole suite of new regulations and laws are being introduced. The Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency are all working on new rules and regulations related to the way businesses should leverage technology. In addition, in 2021 alone, 36 states enacted new cybersecurity legislation. Globally, there are many initiatives such as China and Russia’s data localization requirements, India’s CERT-In incident reporting requirements, and the EU’s GDPR and its incident reporting.

In the United States, for instance, the White House, Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and many other agencies and local governments are considering, pursuing, or starting to enforce new rules and regulations. Companies need not site idle waiting for these rules to be finalized and then enforced. They should and can act now to understand the intent of these regulations and take action. Most of these laws and regulations share common elements and represent common sense best practices that should be followed to protect your business regardless of external regulations.

All these laws and regulations share a common focus on the reasonableness or appropriateness of security. Information security is not a “one size fits all approach” and varies depending on the sensitivity of the data companies utilize, the amount of data they utilize, and types of data they utilize. Companies should develop a process driven approach, meaning that information security is a process, not a product. Legal compliance with security obligations involves applying a process to achieve certain objectives, rather than implementing a check list of security measures in all cases.

Ethical Obligations to Safeguard Information

When it comes to an lawyer’s ethical obligations to protect clients’ data, ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 477R operates as the seminal guidance on a lawyer’s ethical obligation to maintain the security of client confidential information in today’s digital landscape.

This opinion reviews aspects that should be considered by, and guide lawyers in making a “reasonable efforts” analysis. In many ways, this opinion distills the ethics guidance of the last 20 years and updates it in light of the current technology environment.

Ethical guidance is also reflected in amendments to Rule 1.1 “Competence” and Rule 1.6 “Confidentiality of Information,” in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which were updated to reflect a lawyer’s obligation to protect client confidences when transmitting information over the internet.

Many firms struggle with turning these high-level requirements into actions to address their ethical obligations while balancing the risk with the associated costs of avoiding these threats. Working with a trusted Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP), can help your firm stay abreast of the evolving guidance and expanding threat landscape.

Now that we’ve explored the issues facing today’s firms and understand the ABA’s high-level opinion regarding safeguarding information, our next blog post will outline the top 10 practical considerations to safeguard information. Look for part II in this series, “Lawyer’s Practical Considerations to Safeguard Information”.

Post provided by Vivitec.


The Significance of the Disability Panel

Lawyers With Purpose attorney, Brittney Shearin, Esq. often gets questions regarding the disability panel, and when and how to use it. In this article she explains, that, although you may not use it very often, it is extremely helpful to have a disability panel in place for your clients should you ever need it. Your clients and their family members will be happy to avoid obtaining opinions from two licensed physicians as well as to avoid court intervention whenever possible.


Update on Implementation of Proposed Regulations

In response to an inquiry from Karen B. McIntyre of Veterans Information Services, Inc. regarding the proposed VA rulemaking AO73, Net Worth, Asset Transfers, and Income Exclusions, the following email was issued to extend – yet again – the date for possible publication of the final rule to April 2017. Victoria Collier has received confirmation that the proposed rule has not yet made it to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which will need to have its own review of the proposed regulations before they can become final.

Bigstock-Update-Concept-With-Hand-Press-120248195In a message dated 10/6/2016, writes:

RE:  VA rulemaking AO73, Net Worth, Asset Transfers, and Income Exclusions

Ms. McIntyre,

The rulemaking is not yet final.

Due to the complexity of the rule and the large number of comments received, we do not anticipate publication of the final rule before April 2017.

The draft final rule contains several changes as a result of some of the comments we received.  However, because it is still a draft and VA has not finally approved the changes, I can't share with you what those changes are.

My thanks to Marc MacKenzie for making me aware of this email.

Miscellaneous News From the VA’s Office of General Counsel

I attended a VA Accreditation CLE on October 13th at the State Bar of Georgia that included a speech by Christa Shriber, Deputy Chief Counsel of the VA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC). She provided some valuable information that benefits VA-accredited attorneys.

Ms. Shriber confirmed that when accredited attorneys charge fees for assistance with an appeal of a VA decision, there are two ways that fee agreements are to be submitted to the VA for consideration. For cases in which the VA is to directly pay the accredited attorney from the benefits owed to the claimant, the accredited attorney should file the fee agreement at a VA Regional Office specifically to the attention of the Agent and Attorney Fee Coordinator. Addresses for regional offices can be found on the VA website at You will also need to complete and submit form SF 3881, "ACH Vendor/Miscellaneous Payment Enrollment Form," to the fee coordinator for processing payment. In contrast, those cases in which the claimant pays the accredited attorney directly once the appeal is successful require the accredited attorney to file the fee agreement with the Office of General Counsel at 810 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20420.

There is a special phone number for VA accredited attorneys to contact the VA for updates regarding claim status: (855) 225-0709. You may require your VA POA number, which would have been provided in your initial accreditation letter or can be found using the accreditation search tool at the VA webpage:

Finally, for those accredited attorneys out there who are overdue to submit their VA CLE/Certification of Good Standing, whether for initial accreditation or recertification, I recommend that you submit this ASAP. Ms. Shriber mentioned that the OGC was behind in reviewing current CLE and recertification status for VA accreditation, but that they were about to start reviewing the status of all currently listed accredited attorneys. Any accredited attorney who has not submitted their CLE or Annual Certification of Good Standing would receive a suspension letter. Thus, she recommended that anyone who might be behind should submit these right away to avoid suspension. If you're an LWP member, you can log into the members section of the website: webpage for further information regarding VA accreditation. Remember that after initial VA accreditation, attorneys must submit the Annual VA Certification of Good Standing every year affirming that you are an attorney in good standing, and every two years must complete a three-hour CLE pertaining to VA and submit a Biennial CLE Report.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a Lawyers With Purpose member click here to download our Membership Brochure – it will tell you everything you get and all the benefits of joining.

By Sabrina A. Scott, Paralegal, The Elder & Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC and Director of VA Services for Lawyers with Purpose.

Victoria L. Collier, Veteran of the United States Air Force, 1989-1995 and United States Army Reserves, 2001-2004. Victoria is a Certified Elder Law Attorney through the National Elder Law Foundation; Author of “47 Secret Veterans Benefits for Seniors”; Author of “Paying for Long Term Care: Financial Help for Wartime Veterans: The VA Aid & Attendance Benefit”; Founder of The Elder & Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC; Co-Founder of Lawyers with Purpose; and Co-Founder of Veterans Advocate Group of America.


It’s Not All About the Money: Determining “Non-Financial” VA Eligibility

When planning for a VA client, practitioners often spend the bulk of their time considering the claimant’s eligibility in terms of their net worth and income. And these are very important things to consider for VA non-service-connected disability pensions, particularly because the bulk of your clients are probably not initially financially eligible. Before you dive headlong into the numbers, though, remember that there are other requirements for eligibility that have nothing to do with money or finances.

In order to determine whether a veteran is entitled to a non-service-connected disability pension, you must consider his or her military service in terms of the wartime period, the minimum active-duty service requirement and the character of the military discharge. The requirements in these three areas in a nutshell are listed below.

Bigstock-Green-tick-sign-icon-d-40989001The veteran must have:

  • Served at least ONE DAY during a wartime period;
  • Served 90 days on active duty (not training);
  • Received a discharge other than dishonorable.

Wartime periods are defined by Congress, and most of the veterans you encounter will probably have served during World War II, or the Korean or Vietnam wartime periods.

World War II – December 7, 1941 thru December 31, 1946

Korean Conflict – June 27, 1950 thru January 31, 1955

Vietnam Era – February 28, 1961 thru May 7, 1975 (if in the Republic of Vietnam) August 5, 1964 thru May 7, 1975 (if serving anywhere)

The minimum active-duty service requirement is that the veteran must have served 90 days on active duty. What does active duty mean? It is defined in 38 U.S. Code §101(21) as full-time duty in the Armed Forces; as a commissioned officer of the Regular or Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service; as a commissioned officer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; service as a military cadet; and authorized travel to or from such duty or service. The Armed Forces includes the five branches: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard, as well as the Reserve in these branches. There are other categories of military service that I have not included here because they are not conventional and thus not as commonly encountered. For example, certain service in the military of the Philippines, the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and the American Merchant Marine during WWII qualifies, as well as the work by certain civilians on Wake Island during the same period. Active duty does not mean any service related to training, such as active duty training or inactive duty training, neither one of which entitles a veteran to non-service-connected disability pension, no matter how much time is served.

Although there is a minimum active-duty service requirement that the veteran must have served 90 days on active duty, there is no minimum length of service required beyond that for veterans with active service prior to September 8, 1980. Therefore, for most of your clients who are veterans of earlier wartime periods, this will not be an issue as long as they served at least those 90 days. For those veterans with active service after September 8, 1980, the minimum service requirement for benefits such as health care and non-service-connected disability pension (with some exceptions) is 24 months or the full period for which a person was called or ordered to active duty, whichever is shorter.

The requirement for the character of the military discharge is that the veteran received a discharge other than dishonorable. The VA will consider a discharge as “under conditions other than dishonorable” if there are no statutory or regulatory bars to VA benefits in that particular circumstance. Statutory bars include when someone is discharged or released as a conscientious objector, because of a general court-martial, as a deserter, or as a result of an absence without official leave (AWOL) for a continuous period of at least 180 days. For example, if it is found that the person was insane at the time of committing the offense that caused such a discharge or release, then the discharge would not be considered a statutory bar. Another exception is for AWOL cases: If there are compelling circumstances to justify the absence without official leave, this may not constitute a statutory bar to benefits.

Regulatory bars include a discharge or release because of criminal offenses such as mutiny, treason, espionage or sabotage, but also for offenses involving moral turpitude, willful and persistent misconduct, or for homosexual acts involving aggravating circumstances or other factors affecting the performance of duty. It should be noted that the VA has proposed revising the last regulatory bar to change “homosexual acts” to “sexual acts.” Again, these regulatory bars may not apply if insanity can be shown to have been a factor when the offense was committed.

Things can become complicated when a veteran has multiple periods of active duty service and the character of the discharges varies. In general, if a veteran has a discharge that is other than dishonorable for a particular period of service, he/she might still be entitled to benefits on the basis of that term of service despite any later disqualifying discharges for subsequent service periods. However, serious offenses may forever bar a veteran from entitlement to VA benefits regardless of any honorable discharges for prior service periods.

For all the specifics regarding wartime periods, active duty service requirements and military discharge, go right to the source at 38 United States Code Part I – GENERAL PROVISIONS §§101 – 109 and 38 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §§3.1 – 3.17, 3.40 – 3.41, 3.50 – 3.60.

If you want to learn more about Lawyers With Purpose and what we have to offer, download our Membership Brochure HERE

By Sabrina A. Scott, Paralegal, The Elder & Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC and Director of VA Services for Lawyers with Purpose.

Victoria L. Collier, Veteran of the United States Air Force, 1989-1995 and United States Army Reserves, 2001-2004. Victoria is a Certified Elder Law Attorney through the National Elder Law Foundation; Author of “47 Secret Veterans Benefits for Seniors”; Author of “Paying for Long Term Care: Financial Help for Wartime Veterans: The VA Aid & Attendance Benefit”; Founder of The Elder & Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC; Co-Founder of Lawyers with Purpose; and Co-Founder of Veterans Advocate Group of America.


I’m Disabled, Not Incompetent … Why Can’t I Establish My Own Trust?

Special needs trusts are an important tool in an elder care attorney’s toolbox. Established correctly, SNTs allow a person to qualify for public benefits such as Medicaid or SSI while maintaining assets in a trust to supplement the funds provided by such programs. First-party SNTs are established with funds that belong to the beneficiary. By placing the assets into a first-party SNT, the beneficiary can reduce his or her resource level to below the $2,000 required by Medicaid and SSI to qualify for benefits. Unlike SNTs established with third-party funds, a first-party SNT will include a government payback provision. Often, competent adults who have a physical injury or disease will want to establish first-party SNTs, with the appropriate government lien, for themselves.

Bigstock-Disabled-Athlete-With-The-Whee-85935989Since the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, it has been a legal requirement that first-party special needs trusts be established by a parent, grandparent, guardian or court. This requirement has caused some issue for competent disabled adults who wish to establish their own trusts, and it is in direct conflict with the pooled trust. Pooled trusts, which are special needs trusts run by a non-profit third party for a pool of beneficiaries who place their own funds in the trust, were permitted by Congress in 1993 as well. Because of these issues, the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act was resubmitted to Congress in 2015 asking for a law allowing competent disabled adults to establish first-party SNTs for themselves.

Currently, the act has passed the Senate and is now under consideration by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. As an issue of policy, it is highly likely the bill will pass a vote in the full House as well. Passing this bill will free up court time and resources and cut down on unnecessary costs for disabled adults. It will also offer us, as elder care attorneys, another option to provide clients who are receiving benefits and who inherit or are awarded a lump sum of money over $2,000. Imagine the convenience to our disabled clients of establishing their own trusts, picking their own trustees and having funds readily available for the remainder of their lifetimes to supplement their SSI benefits without the necessity of court intervention.

You can follow the progress of the bill on or contact your own representative to establish your support as an elder care professional by referencing H.R.670 – Special Needs Trust Fairness Act of 2015.  We will keep you updated at LWP as the bill continues to move forward becoming law and providing an exciting new opportunity for our clients!

If you would like to learn more about our Client Centered Software click here and we'll schedule you a live demo!  

Kimberly M. Brannon, Esq., Legal-Technical and Software Trainer


You Bet Your VA Life Insurance!

Among the benefits that veterans may access through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is life insurance. Considering the often-hazardous duty that veterans have encountered and survived, the VA’s life insurance programs are meant to offer a measure of financial security to the family for little or no cost. And proceeds from a life insurance policy on a veteran, no matter whether a VA policy or not, are not considered income by the VA, which can be a valuable benefit for a surviving spouse.

The various VA life insurance programs are listed below with the ubiquitous corresponding VA acronym.

  • Service members’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI)
    • Service members’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI)
    • Family Service members' Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)
    • Service members’ Group Life Insurance Disability Extension (SGLI-DE)
  • Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance (S-DVI)
  • Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI)
  • Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI)

Bigstock-Soldier-And-Doctor-Shaking-Han-83552111As the names suggest, not all of these life insurance programs are meant for veterans. The only ones that are available to veterans are the last three. The first four programs are applicable to active service members or their dependents. Specifically, Service members' Group Life Insurance is term life insurance coverage for eligible service members that extends until 120 days after separation from service. Coverage under SGLI is $3.50/month for increments of $50,000 up to a maximum death benefit of $400,000 at a maximum monthly premium of $28.

Apart from basic SGLI, there are three versions of SGLI for specific circumstances. For an additional $1 premium per month, Service members'’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI) provides for a benefit paid in life if the service member suffers a loss due to traumatic injury like amputation, blindness, and paraplegia. There is also SGLI for dependents called Family Service members' Group Life Insurance (FSGLI). And the Service members' Group Life Insurance Disability Extension (SGLI-DE) is an extension of coverage for up to two years if the service member is totally disabled at separation.

After eligible active service, only veterans, and not their dependents, have VA life insurance options: the Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance (S-DVI), Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI), and the Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI). Veterans who receive a new service-connected disability rating have two years to apply for Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance (S-DVI). A “new” service-connected disability rating does not include an increase of a previously held rating, nor a rating of Individual Unemployability, which is a special rating under which the VA can pay 100% of full disability compensation to someone whose service-connected disabilities are not rated at that level. Basic coverage under S-DVI, which offers both term and permanent type plans, starts at $10,000, and supplemental coverage can be purchased up to $30,000. If the new service-connected disability began before the age of 65 and lasted six consecutive months, the premiums for the first $10,000 in S-DVI coverage are waived.

For any service member who was covered by a SGLI policy during active duty and does not want to lose that coverage beyond the given 120 days after separation, there is the option of converting SGLI to a Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) policy or even to a commercial policy. VGLI is a term life insurance product that provides lifetime coverage as long as the premiums are paid. Coverage can be the same amount as the original SGLI policy or can be reduced by increments of $10,000. Once enrolled, you can increase coverage by $25,000 every five years up to a maximum coverage of $400,000

The final insurance program available to veterans is Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI), which is specifically for severely disabled veterans who have received a VA Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant to help build, remodel, or purchase a home, have the title to the home, and have a mortgage on the home. There is also an application deadline of age 70. A VMLI policy provides coverage equal to the amount of the mortgage still owed, up to $200,000, and is payable only to the mortgage holder. It is a decreasing term life insurance that reduces as the mortgage balance declines.

There is a convenient tool called Overview of VA Insurance Benefits created by the VA that allows you to pick the insurance program and then get further guidance on specific program eligibility. If a service member is qualified for SGLI, he or she, along with their non-service-member spouse, is automatically enrolled. To qualify, the applicant has to be an active-duty member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard; a commissioned member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the U.S. Public Health Service; a cadet or midshipman of the U.S. military academies or the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) engaged in authorized training and practice cruises; or certain reserve members.

Veterans, on the other hand, must complete applications for VA life insurance products. Complete and file form VA Form 29-4364 for Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance (S-DVI) or apply online at Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI) requires completion of VA form SGLV 8714 or an online application at the Prudential website: Finally, one can only apply for Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI) by completing VA form 29-8636.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a Lawyers With Purpose member consider joining us in the room the week of October 24th – October 28th in Houston for The Law Profit Summit and the Tri-Annual Practice Enhancement Retreat.  We promise it WILL change your practice!

By Sabrina A. Scott, Paralegal, The Elder & Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC, and Director of VA Services for Lawyers with Purpose.

Victoria L. Collier, Veteran of the United States Air Force, 1989-1995 and United States Army Reserves, 2001-2004. Victoria is a Certified Elder Law Attorney through the National Elder Law Foundation, Author of “47 Secret Veterans Benefits for Seniors”; Author of “Paying for Long Term Care: Financial Help for Wartime Veterans: The VA Aid & Attendance Benefit”; Founder of The Elder & Disability Law Firm of Victoria L. Collier, PC; Co-Founder of Lawyers with Purpose; and Co-Founder of Veterans Advocate Group of America.