Republicans, Democrats and a Socialist from Vermont united in the U.S. House today to increase the maximum amount of voluntary group life insurance available to U.S. military personnel.[@@]

All 424 representatives who voted on H.R. 3200, the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Enhancement Act of 2005, supported the bill, which was introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.

If enacted, H.R. 3200 would increase the maximum amount of coverage available through the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance programs to $400,000, from the current total of $250,000.

The bill also would require officials at the U.S. Defense Department to notify married servicemembers’ spouses and single servicemembers’ next of kin about the availability of SGLI coverage.

Another provision will let servicemembers opt out of the new servicemembers’ traumatic injury protection program.

Buying $250,000 in SGLI coverage now costs about $26 per month, and participating in the traumatic injury protection program, which provides up to $100,000 in benefits, will increase monthly costs about $1 per month, according to an analysis prepared by researchers at the Congressional Budget Office.

The Defense Department is responsible for reimbursing the federal Veterans Affairs Department and the SGLI and VGLI programs for mortality and traumatic injury costs that exceed VA estimates.

Enacting H.R. 3200 could cost the federal government about $199 million between now and 2010, based on the assumption that the military will start with 200,000 servicemembers in and around Iraq and Afghanistan and let that number fall to 50,000 by 2010, CBO researchers write in their analysis.

“CBO estimates that [the Defense Department] would need to reimburse [Veterans Affairs] for 640 claims in 2006,” the analysts write. “CBO also estimates that the number of claims exceeding VA levels would decline to about 40 by 2009.”