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Servicemembers Encouraged to Purchase Renters Insurance

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 6, 2006 – With hurricane season in full-swing, military officials are encouraging servicemembers who don't own their own homes to purchase renters insurance to protect their personal property.

"Hurricane season is now upon us. We urge you, particularly if you live in an area prone to nature's fury, to examine how prepared you are to protect your family financially," Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne stated in a recent letter to airmen regarding personal financial management.

Wynne said one of the lessons learned from the 2005 hurricane season is that it is important to assess insurance needs sooner rather than later.

"Too many of our teammates, including retirees, were caught unprepared and now are bearing an avoidable financial burden," he said. "All Air Force members, whether living on base or off, should consider their family's needs for adequate personal property (renters) insurance."

Wynne said airmen should make a detailed inventory of their personal property and also should consider purchasing flood insurance, which is not part of standard homeowner or renter insurance policies. "Chance favors the prepared," he said.

The commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard also sent out a message to all Coast Guardsmen urging them to protect their property with insurance.

As a result of hurricanes in 2005, Coast Guard members living in government housing filed more than 650 personal property claims totaling almost $700,000 in damages. The amount paid via the Coast Guard claims process is typically a fraction of the actual cost to replace damaged items, Coast Guard officials said.

Insurance providers such as GEICO and USAA also strongly recommend servicemembers get renters insurance. Most policies cover renters of all types, including those living in apartments, dorms or base housing.

"Renters insurance has become a high priority communication for senior military leaders," Michael Kelly, USAA executive director of military communications, said. "In addition, the Navy is now requiring those occupying military housing to sign a form stating they were advised of the need for renters insurance prior to occupying military housing."

Renters insurance is relatively inexpensive compared to the amount of property that could be lost due to severe weather, said Judy Davis, director of GEICO's homeowners sales department. Davis also pointed out that most renter policies are easily transferable from state to state with a simple phone call. This is especially helpful to servicemembers since they frequently relocate, she said.

"When you move within the United States you don't have to take out another policy, you simply report a change of address to us and update all the information," Davis said. "I think that's important to military because many of them move a lot."

Servicemembers having personal financial safeguards, such as renters insurance, in place helps the military meet its responsibilities, because such planning prevents distractions to military members, Wynne said.

"Although we often see our professional life in a very disciplined way, we sometimes don't realize how our personal well-being affects our job performance," he said. "When your personal life is in order, you are a better warfighter for the joint team."

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