Bringing legal assistance to the fleet
Sailor readiness has always been a top priority for commands throughout the fleet. When gearing up for deployment or traveling overseas, most Sailors require legal assistance in the form of a special power of attorney.
Cmdr. Matthew Beran, Deputy of the Knowledge Management Division of the Office of Judge Advocate General of the Navy and his team are helping to make sure legal assistance can be provided at home or out at sea to Sailors. A special power of attorney allows someone else to act on your behalf or exercise your rights. Multiple types of decisions can be made on your behalf such as financial decisions, healthcare decisions, pet care or declaring a guardian for your child. The Navy has started the process of getting special power of attorney documents to the fleet, by giving Sailors, and their families, online access to the necessary forms needed, said Beran.
"Sailors, or those eligible for legal assistance, can go to the website and fill out the special powers of attorney," said Beran. "Then they can choose to have them notarized through either their ship services, their Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) or potentially use a notary out in town."
With the improvement of this process, Sailors can now directly access these forms through the Navy JAG website without going through RLSO, saving valuable time and alleviate a lot of stress on the Sailor.
"Let me contrast the former practice and what the new practice is going to look like," said Beran. "Typically, a Sailor would have to go to RLSO and draft one, two, five, or twelve powers of attorney to cover all the different aspects of getting ready to depart. We've essentially provided all 12 of these forms, so, a Sailor can go on, [download] the form(s), fill it out, print it and take that form to the notary public that they elected to utilize."
Prior to his current position, Beran served as the executive officer of RLSO Mid-Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia. With his experience of working directly with legal assistance, he brought his knowledge to the table to get the task rolling. "One of the reasons we did the special powers of attorney projects and putting these forms online was [to] hopefully alleviate some of the burden at the RLSOs and get the products directly to the Sailors," said Beran. "We have made the forms in an interactive drop down PDF format that can be downloaded, filled out, and taken to your notary of choice. So we are really trying to give Sailors the maximum amount of access to these documents."
Future legal assistance is something that the Navy JAG office will be continuing to work on. Making legal assistance easier to access improves on fleet readiness and ensures that Sailors have the legal guidance they need throughout their career. If you need a special power of attorney visit the Navy JAG website
Power of Attorney
What: A power of attorney is a written document that gives one person the authority to act on another's behalf for any legal or financial issues for a specified period of time. Who: Individual designated power of attorney should be a spouse, parent, or trusted friend. Where: Powers of attorney are available at all installation legal assistance offices. When: For service members, the period of time a power of attorney lasts is typically the expected length of the deployment plus three months in case the deployment is extended. Why: Gives a designated individual access to finances and the ability to pay taxes, receive tax refunds and/or receive emergency financial assistance with a power of attorney on your behalf.
Types of Power of Attorney
General: Gives the designated person the power to perform almost any legal act on your behalf for a specific period of time. Special/Limited: Allows you to give only special powers to the designated person for a specified period of time. Durable: remains valid even if you become incapacitated or unable to handle your own affairs.