Military Legal Aid Lawyers Can Help With Special Education Law

The Army Legal Assistance Program, which I oversee, has made incredible strides over the past year to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our People First priority, especially our member clients. exceptional family. I am pleased to report that we have taken action on the third point made by Chaplain Bailey in his commentary last week.

Over the past year, we have trained 37 legal aid professionals from facilities around the world through an intensive 40 hour legal clinic hosted by the William and Mary School of Law. Not only that, we were joined by our colleagues from all other departments – ensuring that we have lawyers across the world and in all departments ready to help these clients.

Recognizing that we need all of our attorneys who are knowledgeable in this complex and nuanced area of ​​law, the Office of the Judge Advocate General (OTJAG) worked with the American Bar Association (ABA) to develop additional training in the basics of the law. of education, in a virtual format on demand. All of our lawyers have access to this training and are ready to provide basic legal advice in special education law to their clients. Not only that, we have partnered with the ABA to enhance their network of volunteer special education lawyers. These lawyers provide pro bono legal assistance (free of charge) to eligible clients when the case is too complex to be handled by our lawyers.

In early 2021, the Special Education Act became a mandatory assistance area in our military legal assistance program. Just as clients can visit their local legal aid office for assistance with our traditional services such as estate planning, taxes and consumer law, they can now expect assistance regarding the right to special education. Clients should expect to receive basic legal advice in the area of ​​special education law in order to have a trusted advisor on their side. Legal aid lawyers can guide clients through federal laws that ensure children have access to free and appropriate education, but clients should be aware that additional services such as in-person representation may not be available. available in each installation. Clients can find their nearest legal aid office here:

We still have work to do – mainly in the area of ​​awareness – these new services are not very useful if clients do not know they exist. I was happy to read Chaplain Bailey’s article to see this issue highlighted, but it made me realize that we are only halfway there if soldiers like Chaplain Bailey don’t know not that the service is available. Chaplain Bailey and I are working together to address this important need so that we can now work together on the next step – making sure our EFMP families are aware of this new service.

The point of view of Chaplain (Col) Geoffrey Bailey:

As an EFMP family and chaplain, I am excited to learn more about this program and its potential to help our soldiers and their families cope with education challenges. The emphasis and training that the Judge Advocate General Corps gives through investing and communicating in this area is essential to putting people first. I look forward to working to raise awareness of this program and learn its effectiveness with families and leaders as they leverage this new capacity. As Melissa Halsey pointed out above, raising awareness about a new program is the first step. Collecting information on the effectiveness of the program is an ongoing and necessary step in developing, improving or modifying the program to ensure that it meets the needs of the people we are privileged to collaborate with.

Melissa Halsey is Head of the Legal Aid Policy Division of the Office of the Judge Advocate General.

Chaplain (Col.) Geoff Bailey is a US Army War College student with multiple combat tours and company-wide experience from squad level to Pentagon halls. He is also the proud parent of a dependent registered with the EFMP and has nearly 30 years of service as an enlisted soldier and chaplain.

Editor’s Note: This is an editorial and as such the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond or would like to submit your own editorial, please contact Military Times Editor-in-Chief Howard Altman, [email protected].

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