Aug. 6, 2004 - Citing the pressing need for greater, more consistent
legal protections for our nation's men and women in uniform,
including better absentee voting provisions and more equitable
application of in-state tuition rates at public universities,
American Bar Association President Dennis W. Archer today released
a new report on the legal needs of service members.
brave women and men who serve in our nation's military place
themselves in harm's way to protect the rights and freedoms
our country holds dear. In return, we in the legal profession
must do our best to safeguard their legal rights-including the
right to vote and to have their vote counted-so that they are
not diminished as a result of their military service,"
of the Working Group on Protecting the Rights of Service Members"
has not been approved by the ABA's policy-making House of Delegates,
and its recommendations do not represent official policy of
the association unless otherwise stated in the report.
2003, at the beginning of his term as ABA president, Archer
announced the formation by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal
Assistance to Military Personnel of the Working Group on Protecting
the Rights of Service Members. It was charged with examining
current laws as they relate to the men and women serving in
the military and recommending new legal protections, if necessary,
for service members who increasingly are called on to serve
greater lengths of time while fulfilling their duties. The report
is the outcome of that work.
One of the
key issues addressed in the report is protecting the voting
rights of National Guard members and Reservists. The report
notes a recent study of the 2002 general election that showed
nearly 40 percent of all absentee ballots issued weren't counted,
due in part to the difficulty of the three-step application
and submission process, which is even more complicated for service
members stationed in far-away locations. Citing the difficulties
of relying on the mail for balloting, the report recommends
that electronic voting be instituted, in the form of the Department
of Defense's Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment
project, and that the ABA work closely with states and the Defense
Department to assure service members have the best possible
opportunity to vote effectively.
examined by the Working Group are decedent's affairs, education,
family law, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), including
tax and real property issues, and employment issues under the
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
identifies several areas in need of improvement, including:
application of in-state tuition benefits for service members
and their dependents at public colleges and universities in
their state of assignment;
Better education of the state and federal judiciary about
the new SCRA;
of full benefits under the Survivor Benefit Program, which
at present decreases from 55 percent of the service member's
pay to 35 percent once the survivor reaches age 62;
protections and broader interpretations of SCRA among states,
to allow service members and their spouses to terminate leases
if they are on active duty and receive orders to a new location;
access to affordable legal representation for service members
through an Expanded Legal Assistance Program;
vigorous advocacy for returning veterans, particularly Reservists
reentering the civilian work force.
many of the Working Group's findings is the urgent need for
greater consistency in the laws and regulations that impact
service members and their families-representing perhaps their
most pressing legal concern.
this report makes readily apparent is a critical lack of consistency
among the states in laws affecting the lives of our service
members and their families. They need a level of predictability-be
it in civilian employment upon return from military deployment,
qualifying for in-state tuition rates by a service member or
her college-age dependents, or being able to break his lease
because of military relocation, no matter whether a spouse is
also included on the lease-so that they can focus on their work
as the defenders of our country," said Archer.
major component of improving the consistency of our laws is
better education of our state and federal judges about the many
laws and provisions that affect service members, particularly
the SCRA, because an informed judiciary is the greatest protection
against exploitation and disadvantage the men and women who
serve in the military can possibly have," continued Archer.
For a complete
copy of the report and other information, visit www.abavideonews.org/ABA292/index.htm
or contact Glenn Fischer, ABA LAMP Committee, at [email protected].
LAMP Committee provides assistance to military lawyers (judge
advocates) and civilian lawyers charged with providing civil
legal services to an estimated nine million military personnel
and their dependents. The committee also serves as a clearinghouse
for the Armed Forces on issues and developments in the law relating
to the delivery of legal assistance. LAMP also acts as a liaison
between the ABA and the Department of Defense, and its military
than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest
voluntary professional membership organization in the world.
As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works
to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs
that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law
schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build
public understanding around the world of the importance of the
rule of law in a democratic society.