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Information for Military, Retirees and Their Families

Information for Attorneys



Is it Legal Assistance or Legal Resistance?

Expanded Legal Assistance (ELAP)Needed

Legal Assistance Links

History of Military Legal Assistance

Legal assistance programs in the military were established in the early days of World War II to respond to the increased legal problems created as civilians and their families abruptly entered military service. During this period the military establishment also created a permanent framework to respond to the ongoing civil legal requirements of its uniformed members. In 1943, a joint program with the American Bar Association was undertaken to make legal advice and assistance available to military personnel for their civil legal problems. The program provided for the establishment of legal assistance offices at each command, staffed by military attorneys licensed to practice law and augmented by civilian attorney volunteers assigned by state bar associations. The  military attorneys assigned to these offices were not authorized to appear before civilian courts in the representation of their clients. Such cases were to be referred to civilian attorneys.

Today, legal assistance is offered on a discretionary basis by each Military Service to its own personnel. Legal assistance is often, by necessity, not afforded the personnel and budget support needed to make the program a significant benefit to members of the Armed Forces. The scope of legal assistance programs and the volume of military clients served varies greatly by location and branch of service. Resources for legal assistance are allocated at the discretion of the area command, and some locations are unable to  provide even minimum legal services within certain branches of service. Depending on the locale of the installation, a program is sometimes extended by one Military Service to all eligible individuals in the area regardless of their Service affiliation. This places an unacceptable burden on the already strained resources of local legal assistance attorneys, and further reduces the service member's access to needed legal assistance.

The need for legal assistance in the Armed Services has been increasing for many years. Demand for routine legal services such as wills and powers of attorney has grown, but more significantly, an increasing number of clients have serious family law, contractual, tax, and estate planning problems.