Be legally ready for deployments

  • Published
  • By Capt. Craig Dunham
  • 81st Training Wing judge advocate
Benjamin Franklin once said, "The only things certain in life are death and taxes," but for military members, we can add one more certainty, "death, taxes and deployment." At some point in our careers, we are going to deploy, and the legal office can make sure that you are "legally ready." It's wise to plan early--the legal office provides services to deployers, regardless of posted office hours, but, do you really want to be spending the day before your deployment at the legal office?

You've probably seen the letter from the base staff judge advocate in your mobility folder telling you to stop by the legal office before you deploy. The legal office can make sure that wherever you are going, you will have the knowledge to make it as painless as possible for you and your loved ones left behind. We brief each deployer on general rules of laws of armed conflict, rules of engagement, legal assistance, possible employment issues, some financial benefits, voting rights and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act protections.

Legal office hours are 9-10:30 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays from and 1:30-3 p.m. Tuesdays. You can shave off about 20 minutes of your legal visit by using the website to prepare a will worksheet. This ensures that you consider certain options or possibilities regarding your will. It will also help you consider other choices that we can provide in legal assistance, such as powers of attorney and living wills.

If you are not active-duty military and you are deploying, our office will brief you on your Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act protections. Perhaps the most important is the "escalator position," which places you in the position as if you had not deployed, meaning you get credit for seniority, retirement, rate of pay and pension while you are deployed.

Deployers should be aware of some major changes to laws related to finances. Last year, the Thrift Savings Plan introduced a Roth option. In a standard TSP, your money goes in tax free and then is taxed when you withdraw it. The theory is that while you are earning your money, you are in a higher tax bracket than when you retire and start withdrawing the money. For example, if you make $50,000 a year, and you put $10,000 into your TSP account, you would only be taxed on $40,000 of income. With the Roth version of TSP, your money is taxed going in, but comes out tax free. So if you make $50,000 a year, and you put $10,000 into your Roth TSP account, you would still be taxed on $50,000 of income, and that $10,000 after paying taxes will be worth approximately $7,500, assuming a 25 percent tax bracket, in your Roth account, but that money will never be taxed again. The benefit for deployers is depending on where you are deployed, your income is tax free. You can put that income into your Roth TSP account tax free as well. For a deployer making $50,000 in a deployed location where that income is tax free, then that $10,000 can go into a Roth TSP taxed at the same rate, still 0%, and still come out tax free. This is a huge benefit of whatever your tax bracket is. The maximum that can be placed into a TSP account each year is currently $17,500. Deployment can help all members with their retirement goals if they take advantage of the benefits offered.
Another financial benefit to deploying, again depending on the location, is the Savings Deposit Program. That is a Department of Defense sponsored savings account that offers members a guaranteed return on investment of 10 percent interest compounded quarterly. You can contribute a maximum of $10,000, and get a guaranteed return of 10 percent, or $1,000. Compare that to the interest offered on other savings accounts. Certain rules apply, so check with the finance office for details.

Being deployed is never a reason not to vote. will allow deployers the ability to register to vote and vote absentee. The website even prints out a postage-paid envelope for your convenience. You have the ability to vote through that website for local, state, and federal elections.

SCRA is a federal law that provides protections for military members as they enter active duty, as well as when they deploy. It covers rental agreements, security deposits, prepaid rent, eviction, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgage interest rates, mortgage foreclosure, civil judicial proceedings, automobile leases, life insurance, taxes and many issues.

The legal office is here to support you before you deploy, ensure that our deployed warfighters can keep their minds on the mission while deployed, and support your dependents during your deployment.
For more information, visit the legal office, Room 227, Sablich Center.