Spotlight on Benefits: Life Insurance

Posted: July 6, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jeremy Lasich

All George Mason full-time faculty, full-time classified staff, and part-time classified staff are covered by the Virginia Retirement System’s (VRS) life insurance program through Minnesota Life, effective on the employment date. The state pays the entire premium, and the basic benefit is two times annual salary. There is also an accidental death and dismemberment provision of four times annual salary.

For natural death, the amount of basic group life insurance is equal to your annual salary rounded to the next highest thousand, and then doubled. For example, if your annual salary is $25,200, it is rounded up to the next highest thousand—$26,000. When doubled, the benefit amount is $52,000 for natural death. If death is accidental, the amount is doubled again. In this example, the benefit amount is $104,000 ($52,000 natural death benefit and $52,000 for accidental death).

Employees also receive a payment equal to their salary rounded to the next highest thousand for the accidental loss of one limb or the sight of one eye. Employees receive a payment equal to their salary rounded to the next highest thousand and doubled, for the loss of two or more limbs, the total loss of eyesight, or the loss of one limb and the sight of one eye.

The life insurance benefit pays an amount equal to the lesser of $50,000 or 25 percent of the accidental death or dismemberment benefit amount if employees die or suffer dismemberment because of a felonious assault. If the assault causes death, and the employee has a dependent child or children, the benefit will provide a Virginia Education Savings Trust account to be used for college tuition and mandatory fees at any accredited college or university in the country that is eligible to participate in federal student financial aid programs. A felonious assault is a physical assault by another person resulting in bodily harm.

If an employee dies or suffers dismemberment in an accident while driving or riding in a private passenger vehicle, the life insurance benefit will pay an additional amount equal to 10 percent of the accidental death or dismemberment amount. This benefit will be paid provided the car was equipped with a safety restraint system that was in proper use at the time of the accident, and the driver of the vehicle was a licensed driver and was not intoxicated, impaired, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The maximum benefit payable is $50,000.

If an employee is diagnosed with a terminal condition and has fewer than 12 months to live, he or she can withdraw any amount of the life insurance coverage for any purpose. Any amount left in the plan is paid to the beneficiary.

When employees retire, their basic group life insurance coverage continues at no cost if the employee is at least 50 years old and has at least 10 years of service. After retirement, the amount of the insurance reduces by 25 percent annually starting Jan. 1 following the first full year of retirement and each Jan. 1 thereafter, until coverage reaches 25 percent of its value at the employee’s retirement.

Additional life insurance is also available for purchase. VRS Optional Life, underwritten by Minnesota Life, allows employees to purchase additional individual or family insurance. Jefferson Pilot VTL offers voluntary term life insurance for employees and their families, and may be portable. Additional coverage is also available through Colonial Life and Accident Insurance Company.

Beneficiary change forms and more details are available on the VRS web site.

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