PACAF looking out for airmen’s legal affairs
August 14, 2004
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Pacific Air Forces has adopted a new program aimed at organizing the legal affairs of deploying servicemembers.
Airmen from Yokota, Kadena and Misawa air bases must complete a “legal checkup” before the end of the year under the Legal Readiness Program, a Web-based educational briefing created in response to command concerns that Air Force servicemembers weren’t legally prepared for temporary-duty stints.
Gen. William Begert, the former PACAF commander, wanted to minimize the number of airmen who deployed without appropriately ensuring their families were secure back home, said Capt. Lisa Gorog, the chief of legal assistance for the 374th Airlift Wing’s Staff Judge Advocate.
“He wanted to make sure they had things in place such as a will or sufficient life insurance,” she said. “He wanted to ensure all PACAF airmen had provided their families with a safety net. Accordingly, the purpose of this program is to ensure our airmen are legally ready so that their families are taken care of in the event of their death.
“Essentially, the program is designed to verify our airmen’s personal legal affairs are in order. We want to make sure all airmen are legally ready — not just deploying airmen.”
According to a January 2003 survey, Gorog said, just 50 percent of PACAF airmen possessed wills or had asked a legal representative about drafting one. Most PACAF fatalities involved airmen who hadn’t left a will.
The new program also is designed to solidify power-of-attorney documents tied to finances, health-care needs and life insurance, she added.
Prior to the LRP, each airman marked for deployment was provided a checklist they could bring to the installation’s legal office. Officials there would then offer an opportunity to draft a will, powers of attorney or any other legal document needed prior to deployment, Gorog said.
The new process is now a mandatory, annual requirement for PACAF servicemembers, according to 1st Lt. Warren Comer, a 374th Airlift Wing spokesman.
“In the past, when servicemembers would go through the line before a deployment, legal would have a desk set up and they’d offer services. But they were on an optional basis. You could use it if you wanted to,” he said. “Sometimes, airmen would go on deployment and find out that a spouse or family member back home couldn’t get money out of a bank account because the name didn’t match up on the check. Obviously, that’s a big problem.
“This program removes a lot of the doubts and uncertainties. We want to make sure airmen don’t have to worry about these things and are ready to get on that plane when the call comes.”
A “legal checkup” is a two-step procedure, Gorog said: First, an airman must complete a Web-based “triage” program that assesses his or her individual legal readiness. If that individual has no legal needs, the program issues a certificate of legal readiness.
However, if outstanding requirements exist, a legal-readiness appointment will be generated, she added.
“Specifically, the airman will receive an e-mail directing him to the legal office within 30 days for a legal-readiness briefing,” Gorog said, adding that Yokota’s legal office plans to conduct the sessions at 8:30 a.m. every Monday and Wednesday.
“If, after the briefing, the airman wants certain legal documents, a legal-assistance appointment is immediately scheduled. If the airman does not want any legal instruments, the legal office issues a legal-readiness certificate,” she noted.
“This program is designed to ensure PACAF airmen have received enough information to make informed decisions about legal documents they may need prior to deployment.”
Air Force servicemembers can access the LRP at https://www.hqpacaf.af.mil/ja/Legal%20Readiness%20Program/LRP.htm. After logging on, they should select “PACAF Legal Readiness Triage Program.”