Beginning in 1917 during World War I, the U.S. government has provided life insurance to soldiers, sailors and marines. Originally intended to provide insurance against the loss of ships and cargo prior to America's involvement in World War I, the War Risk Insurance Act was thereafter amended to allow the federal government, through the Department of Veterans' Affairs, to offer life insurance to members of the armed services.
According to the VA insurance website, over 93% of those eligible during WWI took the coverage (up to $10,000) and these programs were continued through each succeeding war and major conflict. As with other types of insurance, however, a substantial amount of the policies remain unclaimed. According to an article on ABCnews.com, at least $33 million in unclaimed insurance proceeds remain with the VA, most of which dates back to World War II. Veterans, or their families, can check if they are eligible through the VA website.