Legal preparations help avoid stress, financial pitfalls during deployment
September 10, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - A Soldier's loved ones play a key role in pre-deployment support. By getting organized early, Family members and friends can take simple steps to facilitate a Soldier's trip down range and avoid stress later. The key is early preparation - the offices and personnel who help Soldiers prepare to deploy, such as the Legal Assistance Office, cannot always process what may be needed in a short period of time. And court dates cannot always be continued at the last minute.
Record keeping is essential. Keep an organized file of birth certificates, marriage certificates, licenses, social security cards, tax forms, wills, keys, leases, contracts, other personal business paperwork, bank and credit card information, investment information ...... get the picture'
Save everything that might be useful while your Soldier is away and keep it organized for easy access.
Identification cards are important not just for the Soldier but for his entire Family. Soldiers should enroll their Families in DEERS and are able to obtain a special power of attorney so their spouse can replace a lost ID card without the presence of the deployed spouse. Proper ID cards ensure exchange (PX) and commissary privileges for spouses and children and grant access to recreation facilities and important military benefits, such as medical assistance.
Vehicles can also create problems during deployment. Common problems arise concerning payment of vehicle notes and insurance, registration renewal, and state property taxes if your state does not exempt members of the military. Many of these bills can be paid via Internet or by a spouse via a joint checking account.
Finding a trusted mechanic and auto-dealership before deployment will ensure that maintenance concerns are handled while the Soldier is away, instead of being forced into a hiring an unknown later on. Be sure to budget for these types of repairs.
Soldiers should also budget for possible maintenance issues with their home and property. Mortgages, insurance policies, property taxes and repairs can be extremely stressful for Soldiers while on deployment and are best handled by pre-deployment preparation and arrangements.
Make sure insurance plans are in place so that you're not caught in an unexpected fire, flood or hurricane without a financial backup plan. A smart plan is to save up a special nest egg for home or vehicle repairs that insurance companies may not cover. And remember, insurance doesn't usually cover normal repair costs or maintenance costs.
Expensive car and home problems have a way of arising at the least opportune moment, so be sure to budget conservatively well before deployment.
As a last resort, the Legal Assistance Office recommends special powers of attorney for intended purposes. A POA gives someone else (a spouse, relative, close friend) the legal power to act on your behalf when you are not able to act yourself. Creating a POA enables trusted individuals to conduct business for you, such as banking transactions, selling or buying property, or medical decisions. Not all decisions can be handled by a POA and not all businesses will accept them, but they can make many situations easier for a Soldier who is down range and cannot conduct business as usual at home.
It is best to make POAs as specific as possible, so that a Soldier's wishes are known clearly, and the abilities of the person acting on his/her behalf are tailored to those specific intentions.
Remember that Soldiers are still responsible for household expenses, bills, rent, car notes, cell phones, and mortgage payments while deployed and that extra deployment money will not necessarily be a quick-fix to all life's debts and financial obligations. Be sure that well before deploying arrangements are made to pay these obligations.
Pending legal concerns, too, such as children from previous marriages, upcoming court dates, debt problems, foreclosures and will drafting should be handled through the Legal Assistance Office months before your deployment. Because pre-deployment is a such an emotionally taxing experience, it is most advisable to handle all legal issues well before it is time to deploy.
It is best to make important life decisions, such as child guardianship or home financing, when a Soldier's judgment and decision-making capacity is clearest, well before this emotional period sets in.
The XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg Legal Assistance office is located in Building 2-1133 on the corner of Macomb and Armistead streets. The office is open Monday, Tuesday and Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., on Wednesday from 1 to 4:30 p.m., and on Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The office is closed everyday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Appointments are made on the last day of the work week starting at 9 a.m. and are made no more than one week in advance. You can schedule an appointment in person or by calling 396-0396/6113. For more information, visit the LAO website at www.bragg.army/mil/SJA/LAO.