WASHINGTON - An amendment by U.S. Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) to give free life insurance to troops in combat became law on October 17 when President Bush signed the defense authorization bill.

Spratt's amendment pays all premiums incurred by military personnel for Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) coverage up to the maximum amount of $400,000.

The coverage will be available to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. These troops have received reimbursement for premiums paid on the first $150,000 of SGLI coverage. Now, under Spratt's amendment, they will receive reimbursement for all premiums paid while serving in a combat theater like Iraq.

“Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line for us every day,” said Spratt. “They should not have to pay for life insurance when we put them in harm's way. This bill allows every service member serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to take the full amount of life insurance available, and not worry over the costs associated with it.”

For the past three years Spratt has advocated for increases in SGLI coverage from $150,000 to $400,000, reimbursement of premiums paid for such coverage, and increases in the death gratuity paid by the military to family of service members killed in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom from $6,000 to $100,000. As a result of these improvements, the family of a service member killed in one of these theaters could receive as much as $500,000 from combined payments of death gratuity and SGLI life insurance.

“This is precious little consolation to families who lose loved ones, but it will help through their painful transition. It is the least we can do for the families of those who make the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live free and secure,” Spratt said.