You read in Chapter 3 about the military justice system and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In this section you’ll read about legal services the Army provides to soldiers. Army Legal Assistance providers worldwide advise soldiers, family members, and other eligible clients on their legal affairs in a timely and professional manner by delivering preventive law information and resolving personal legal problems.
Active component soldiers ordered to deploy, or reserve and National Guard soldiers being mobilized know that the time to put personal and legal affairs in order may be relatively short. Most soldiers realize that problems may arise when you are suddenly separated from your family and, for reserve component members, your business and civilian job. Advance planning will help avoid many legal problems upon mobilization or deployment. In addition, taking care of personal legal affairs now will give you and your family peace of mind.
Begin planning by anticipating what would happen if you were required to be apart from your family at a distant location for an indefinite period of time, unable to remain in continuous communications with them. Anticipate and prevent legal problems that might arise by putting your personal, property, and financial affairs in order now so that there will be no confusion or uncertainty later. Issues such as wills, medical planning, living wills, general and special powers of attorney; property and financial affairs management; and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act are very complex and difficult to deal with while deployed. Some things to do before deploying are the following:
- Check your service record to make sure the information is correct.
- Make the correct beneficiary is on your SGLI election and certificate.
- Decide whether you and your spouse need to have wills drawn up.
- Decide whether or not you want a “living will,” advance medical directive, or durable medical power of attorney. These documents can authorize a person to make decisions regarding your medical care in the event you cannot make those decisions yourself.
- Decide whether or not you need to give someone a general or special power of attorney. This is a legal designation for a person to execute certain duties on your behalf while you are absent.
- Decide if you need to give someone a medical power of attorney to take action in the event your minor children (if you have any) have a medical emergency.
- Before deployment, make sure that your family members know the location of important documents such as wills, marriage and birth certificates, and insurance policies.
- Verify DEERS enrollment so family members can receive needed medical care in your absence by calling 1-800-538-9552.
- Ensure your spouse knows the location of the nearest military legal assistance office for help with any legal problems in your absence.
Your installation legal assistance center can provide a great number of services that would cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars using civilian legal offices. Army legal assistance centers provide answers and advice to even the most complex problems. Such legal assistance usually does not include in-court representation.
Some of the issues that your installation’s legal assistance center may be able to help with are as follows:
- Soldiers/Sailors Civil Relief Act (SSCRA).Marriage/divorce issues.
- Child custody/visitation.
- Adoption or other family (as expertise is available).
- Advice for designating SGLI beneficiaries.
- Landlord-tenant issues.
- Consumer affairs (mortgages, warranties, etc.).
- Reemployment issues under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA) of 1994.
- Name change (as expertise is available).
- Line of duty investigations.
- Reports of survey.
- Evaluation report disputes, including relief for cause.
- Bars to reenlistment (as available).
- Inspector General investigations.
- Hardship discharge.
For more information on what your legal assistance center can do for you, contact your installation center or see the Army’s legal assistance website at www.jagcnet.army.mil/legal. You can also refer to AR 27-3, The Army Legal Assistance Program.
Trial Defense Services (TDS) are a separate part of the Judge Advocate General Corps (Army lawyers). They are independent of local commands and local staff judge advocate offices so they are not exposed to any possible influence on their services. The TDS provide soldiers facing court martial, Article 15, or civilian criminal charges with advice and representation in courts martial. TDS also helps soldiers facing involuntary separation proceedings under Chapters 5-13, 15 and 18 of AR 635-200, Enlisted Personnel. TDS may also help officers under elimination actions or who are resigning in lieu of elimination (AR 600-8-24, Officer Transfers and Discharges).