The Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance program will be celebrating its 60th birthday on August 29, 2014. Happy birthday, FEGLI! You are the largest life insurance program in the world, covering over 4 million employees and retirees, as well as many of their family members.

In honor of that milestone, OPM has published a new edition of the FEGLI program handbook.

In its opening pages, OPM offers this capsule description of the program. “Most employees are eligible for FEGLI coverage. FEGLI provides group term life insurance. As such, it does not build up any cash value or paid-up value. It consists of Basic life insurance coverage and three options. In most cases, if you are a new federal employee, you are automatically covered by Basic life insurance and your payroll office deducts premiums from your paycheck unless you waive the coverage. In addition to the Basic, there are three forms of Optional insurance you can elect. You must have Basic insurance in order to elect any of the options. Unlike Basic, enrollment in Optional insurance is not automatic – you must take action to elect the options.

“The cost of Basic insurance is shared between you and the Government. You pay 2/3 of the total cost and the Government pays 1/3. Your age does not affect the cost of Basic insurance. You pay the full cost of Optional insurance, and the cost depends on your age.

“The Office of Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (OFEGLI), which is a private entity that has a contract with the federal government, processes and pays claims under the FEGLI program.”

While FEGLI is one of the most stable programs in the federal benefits arsenal, it’s not true, despite what some would have you believe, that the program has not changed since I Love Lucy was in its first run. In fact, the law has been amended 58 times, most recently in 2008.

If you want to see what those amendments have been, go to www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/life-insurance/reference-materials/handbook.pdf and scroll to page 233. After you’ve read through the amendments, I think you’ll be impressed by the way the FEGLI program has adapted to the changing needs of the federal workforce.

P.S. If you want to see where you stand life insurance-wise – or where you should stand – there’s a calculator at www.opm.gov/retirement-services/calculators/fegli-calculator. It would be worth your while to give it a whirl. Used in conjunction with the FEGLI program handbook, you’ll be in a better position to match FEGLI’s options with your needs.