Preparing Legal Documents Ahead of a Deployment


It's difficult to drop everything and leave for deployment, particularly if you're involved with a complicated legal case, or haven't put your legal affairs in order yet. Be sure you take care of at least the following before you leave:

Servicemember's Civil Relief Act (SCRA):

Make sure you learn everything there is to know about this act. Under it, you could qualify for:

  • Reduced interest rate on mortgage payments.
    6% interest rate on credit card debt.
  • Protection from eviction if your rent is $2,400 or less.
  • Delay of all civil court actions, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure or divorce proceedings.

Note that most of the protections SCRA offers are good only during your duration of your active duty assignment. For more on SCRA, see this overview, or contact your unit or installation legal assistance office.

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA):

USERRA provides reemployment protection and other benefits for veterans and employees who perform military service. For more on USERRA, see this overview.

Wills: One of the most important tasks an individual or couple can do for personal and family readiness is to prepare a will. We like to think that we will never need a will but three out of four people die without one! A will ensures that your children have someone to take care of them and that your estate is disposed of properly. Without a will, the state will make those decisions for you and impose a fee for representation. Check with your unit to see if there is a military lawyer who will provide this service to you free of charge.

Power of Attorney: A power of attorney gives someone else (a spouse, relative, good friend) the legal power to act on your behalf when you are not able to act yourself. Setting up a power of attorney would allow the trusted individual to conduct business in your name, for example, banking transactions, selling or buying property, and everyday medical decisions. Check with your unit to see if there is a military lawyer who will provide assistance to you free of charge. Also check out the Military Law section for more information.

Family Care Plan: A Family Care Plan is required for all single service members and dual-service couples responsible for family members. The plan outlines specifically the care of your family members in your absence. This is critical for single parents of young children. It is the servicemember's responsibility to maintain a current plan with his or her unit. For details on how to put together a Family Care Plan, see the Family Care Plan section.

Servicemen's Group Life Insurance (SGLI): For a small monthly charge, each active duty servicemember is eligible to be insured under SGLI up to a maximum of $250,000 in increments of $10,000. This coverage need not be the servicemember's only life insurance. Before deploying you should verify who you have designated as beneficiary on your SGLI and make changes as necessary. An eligible beneficiary can be any person or legal entity designated by the servicemember. To make any change the SGLI Election Form (VA Form SGLV-8286) must be completed. For more on SGLI, see the SGLI section. Servicemembers in the sea services may also qualify for cost-effective plans with the NMAA.

ID Cards: Every eligible member of the family needs to have the Uniformed Services Identification and Privilege Card (ID). During peacetime, the ID card affords the family members certain entitlements such as exchange privileges, limited commissary privileges, recreational facilities, and military discounts. However, if the servicemember is called to active duty for longer than 30 days, the ID card will be necessary for medical benefits, arranging a transfer of goods, or obtaining base housing. For more on getting an ID Card, see the ID Card section. Go to your local armory or base to obtain a card. Be prepared to show proper documentation to prove eligibility (marriage certificate, birth certificates, adoption papers etc.).

Service Record: Check the pages of your service record to ensure that the contact information is correct. An incorrect phone number can delay a response in the case of an emergency.

Vehicle Information: While deployed it is recommended that you make storage arrangements for your vehicle(s). Some installations have long-term storage available. Additionally, you should check your vehicle registration expiration date. If your registration will expire while you are deployed, you should renew your registration prior to deployment or make arrangements for someone with your power of attorney to take care of it for you. Also, some insurance companies offer reduced rates to service members who are deployed if their vehicle will not be in use. Contact your insurance agency to see if this is an option for you.

Learn more at the Deployment Center.

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