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Free legal assistance beneficial to Soldiers

Capt. Rob Juge, chief of client services, left, and then-Sgt. John Smith, 1st Bn., 13th Avn. Regt., client services NCO in charge, speak in the legal assistance office last year. (Photo by Jeremy Henderson)

Capt. Rob Juge, chief of client services, left, and then-Sgt. John Smith, 1st Bn., 13th Avn. Regt., client services NCO in charge, speak in the legal assistance office last year. (Photo by Jeremy Henderson)

Published: March 31, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 31, 2016) -- Free legal assistance services can be one of the most valuable benefits available to Soldiers on post, but it can also be one of the most underutilized.

Capt. Rob Juge, Fort Rucker Office Staff Judge Advocate Legal Assistance Office client services chief, said Soldiers are often unaware of the different types of legal services available.

“I believe there are quite a few Soldiers, retirees and dependents who do not realize that we can provide them with legal assistance at all,” Juge said. “It seems that when people hear ‘JAG,’ they shudder and think of prosecutors or the people who give Article 15s. While there are judge advocates who do those things, there is a large section of our office that exists exclusively to help Soldiers, retirees, and their family members with personal legal issues.”

According to Juge, Soldiers should view the legal assistance office as a source of support and always seek assistance in their legal matters.

“I think the biggest point is that if a person has a legal issue-whatever it is-they need to come see us,” he said. “If we cannot help to resolve the issue, we will at least point the client in the right direction to get a resolution.”

What services are offered by the Legal Assistance Office?

“We assist clients with wills, powers of attorney, notarizations, bills of sale, income tax preparation, landlord and tenant issues, Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act issues, uncontested divorce, family support, assistance with rebuttals for military administrative actions (General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand, evaluations, financial liability investigations of property loss, flight evaluation boards), debt collection, claims assistance (household goods shipments, etc.), and much more,” Juge said. “These are just examples of some of the services we offer. If your issue has any relation to a legal issue – or if you have nowhere else to turn – come and see us.”

For a good example of some of the services offered, visit the office’s Facebook page at Frequent local area legal issues and preventative law materials are posted on the page.  Additionally, clients can send a message to the page, where it will be received by an attorney and usually responded to within an hour. This may be the quickest way to get in touch with an attorney if you have an emergency, or even if to find out if you have a legal issue and where to turn, Juge said.

The office’s attorneys are a free legal counseling resource Soldiers should utilize, Juge said.

“This is a good place to mention attorney-client privilege,” he added. “Legal assistance attorneys are one of the few positions in the Army in which our loyalty and professional responsibilities to our clients outweigh our professional obligation to the Army. When it comes to a conflict between our client and the Army, our client wins. Anything a client shares with a legal assistance attorney during their representation is private, except in a few limited circumstances, such as if the client threatened to injure themselves or another person. Clients can take comfort in the fact that whatever they share will not make it back to their commanders or anyone else for that matter.”

According to Juge, the free legal services offered on post can help Soldiers, retirees and family members save money up front and down the road.

“Civilian attorneys off-post are often very expensive – some charging hundreds of dollars per hour of work,” he said.  “In addition to helping our clients save money up front, many of our actions often help return money to a client’s pocket. In one recent instance, our office saved a client over $5,000 by helping them get out of an employment contract when their spouse joined the Army.”

People can rest assured that military attorneys are some of the very best available, and they are experts in areas that frequently concern servicemembers and their families, Juge said.

“Army judge advocates are picked competitively from the best and brightest attorneys,” he added. “The JAG Corps typically selects less than 10 percent of applicants each year. The competitive nature of the program ensures that we only hire the most skilled, competent and professional attorneys our nation has to offer. Additionally, Army judge advocates receive several months of Army-specific legal training to make them subject matter experts in military law and service-connected issues. Many civilian attorneys off post will not have the military-specific expertise that comes with being an Army judge advocate.”

Increased service use will provide additional funding for more robust programs in the future, Juge said.

“A perfect example is our tax center,” he said. “If we prepare taxes for more people one year than the year prior, we can secure additional resources to provide a more robust tax center. This equates to more appointments and less wait time the following year.”

The SJA office also houses the Special Victim Counsel Program. The purpose of the SVC Program is to provide zealous advocacy for the victims of sexual assaults throughout the military justice process. Victims of sexual assault are entitled to certain services and protections, and the SVC is the attorney that represents a victim through the entire process, from reporting to court-martial and beyond.

People who need SVC assistance should call Capt. Quan Vu at 332-9673.

For more information about legal services offered on post, call 255-3482 to make an appointment. Soldiers, retirees and family members may also visit Bldg. 5700, Suite 320, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., and Thursdays from noon until 4:30 p.m.

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