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    Most legal services are free to U.S. Army Soldiers, family and retirees

    Excellence in legal services

    Courtesy Photo | Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza (far left), I Corps commanding general at Joint Base...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Bryan Dominique 

    I Corps

    JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Legal services can be expensive, but not for U.S. Army service members and retirees here at JBLM. Legal assistance available through civilian law providers is free, and covers everything from family law and estate planning to military administration and consumer law issues, along with free tax preparation from January to April.

    One service that legal assistance does not provide is representation in court, but that may be changing.

    “It’s always been out there. There’s always been the possibility that either civilian or [military attorneys] could go to court, but it’s never really been pushed,” said Denise Meenan, JBLM legal assistance chief. “So hopefully this coming year we’ll be able to start going to court. It would be a really great opportunity for all of us.”

    However, legal assistance can provide special victims legal counseling to victims of sexual assault.

    “[Special victims counsel] is attorney’s providing representation to victims of sexual assault,” said Capt. Javier Talavera, a Chicago native and brigade judge advocate for the 189th Infantry Brigade here.

    He has served as a lawyer in the Army for more than six years, and worked with the JBLM and I Corps legal assistance team from the summer of 2014 to the summer of 2016. Prior to his departure he spent submitted the JBLM legal team for consideration for the 2015 Chief of Staff Award for excellence in legal assistance, an award that has not been seen here in five years.

    This month Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, I Corps commanding general, presented the team with the award.

    “Just the fact that the office personnel are getting this recognition for the work [they do] day-in-day-out, it’s amazing,” said Talavera. I spent a year as a chief, and I can tell you the people that work in this office are amazing. Not only do they really care for the Soldiers that come in, but they really go above and beyond to provide those legal services. So to have that recognition come down from the Department of the Army, it just feels amazing.”

    According to Meenan, there were 4,338 individual attorney consultations in fiscal year ’15, with the legal assistance team providing services valued at more than $1 million.

    “Of course all of our services are free, but shockingly a lot of Soldiers still don’t know that they have access to free legal here,” she said. “Or they think all we do is make wills, and that’s not true. Family law is the number one service we provide, and a lot of people need that service.”

    The legal services provided at JBLM and across the Army extend beyond the ones provided by legal assistance.

    Co-located with legal assistance is the JBLM claims office, which for the 10th consecutive year was awarded the Judge Advocate General Excellence in Claims Award.

    “It is gratifying to know that the hard work that my office puts in each day has been recognized by the Army leadership,” said Jeffery Smith, chief of the JBLM Claims Division. “This was the 10th year in a row that we received The Judge Advocate General’s Excellence in Claims Award.”

    The job of the JBLM claims team differs from other Army offices because of the base’s size, scope and location to major population areas.

    JBLM is located in Western Washington, along with Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle. It is just south of Tacoma and serves as the third largest employer and seventh largest city in the state.

    “Our office has a four-state area of responsibility, [being] Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana,” said Smith. We are responsible for receiving, processing, and resolving claims filed under several different federal statutes.”

    For more information about the services provided by the entire JBLM and I Corps legal team, visit



    Date Taken: 08.24.2016
    Date Posted: 08.24.2016 18:08
    Story ID: 208074
    Hometown: CHICAGO, IL, US

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