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NOWINSKI v. SERVICEMEN'S GROUP LIFE INS.
January 17, 1980
Matthew NOWINSKI, Administrator of the Estate of Henry A. Nowinski
SERVICEMEN'S GROUP LIFE INSURANCE.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: POLLAK
On July 21, 1975, Henry A. Nowinski enlisted in a Naval Reserve Program entitled "CACHE."
Pursuant to his enlistment agreement with the Navy, he was assigned to inactive duty and instructed to proceed to his current home address and to return to the AFEES (Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station) on September 13, 1975, for the purposes of discharge from the Naval Reserve and enlistment in the Navy. On September 6, 1975, one week before his reporting date, Seaman Recruit Henry A. Nowinski was killed in an automobile accident.
After Henry's death, Matthew Nowinski his father and the administrator of his estate claimed $ 20,000 in benefits alleged to be due under the policy of group life insurance purchased by the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs from Servicemen's Group Life Insurance (SGLI) pursuant to the authority granted by 38 U.S.C. § 766. Claims were filed both with SGLI and with the Navy, and each rejected the claim. On September 19, 1978, Matthew Nowinski filed this lawsuit asserting a right to recover under the policy. Specifically, plaintiff claims that at the time of his death, Henry Nowinski was a "member of a uniformed service on . . . inactive duty training," pursuant to 38 U.S.C. § 767 and therefore entitled to coverage. Defendant responds that decedent's enlistment in CACHE did not make him a "member of a uniformed service on . . . inactive duty training," nor a member of any other category of serviceman covered by the group policy.
Although the suit is based on the insurance contract, that contract repeats in haec verba the statutory language relative to the scope of the coverage. For convenience then, all references will be made to the language of the statute itself.
As noted above, Section 766 of Title 38 authorizes the Administrator to purchase group life insurance policies with certain specified benefits. Section 767(a) of Title 38 declares, in relevant portion, that the policy so purchased:
. . . shall automatically insure against death
(1) any member of a uniformed service on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training scheduled in advance by competent authority;
(2) any member of the Ready Reserve of a uniformed service who meets the qualifications set forth in section 767(5)(B) of this title (38 U.S.C. § 765(5) (B)) . . . .
in the amount of $ 20,000 unless such member elects in writing (A) not to be insured under this subchapter (38 U.S.C. § 765 et seq.) or (B) to be insured in the amount of $ 15,000, $ 10,000, or $ 5,000. The insurance shall be effective the first day of active duty or active duty for training, or the beginning of a period of inactive duty training scheduled in advance by competent authority, or the first day a member of the Ready Reserve meets the qualifications set forth in section 765(5)(B) . . .
Section 765 of Title 38 provides the following pertinent definitions:
(3) The term "inactive duty training" means
(A) duty (other than full-time duty) prescribed or authorized for Reserves (including commissioned officers of the Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service) which duty is scheduled in advance of (sic ) competent authority to begin at a specific time and place . . .
(4) The terms "active duty for training" and "inactive duty training" do not include duty performed as a temporary member of the Coast Guard Reserve, and the term "inactive duty training" does not include (i) work or study performed in connection with correspondence courses, ...
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