Family Legal Issues – The Essentials

Soldier waits in legal office

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Life happens. And when it does, you need to be ready. Organizing legal affairs and filing stacks of paperwork might not top your list of favorite activities, but having the right documents in place can prevent common legal issues from turning into catastrophes for you and your family.

Military OneSource provides guidance on a variety of legal issues, so you can:

Prepare key legal documents

Having the necessary legal documents in place isn’t guaranteed to protect you from every potential issue. But it may help you sleep better at night and keep you from having to compile them in a frenzied state in the event of an emergency.

Start with a last will and testament, a durable or health care power of attorney, an advance medical directive and an estate plan to safeguard your family’s financial security.

Relevant Article:

Relevant Resource:

Manage the divorce process

State law and local procedures govern divorce, but there are certain federal statutes and military regulations that may apply to yours, depending on where you file.

Being in the military can present some additional legal issues affecting benefits, such as housing and supporting family members who may be separating. Military legal assistance attorneys are available to help you understand the legal implications of your divorce.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resources:

Be proactive with child custody

Military service can disrupt custody arrangements or visitation rights for children of divorced service members. Military OneSource can help you find an attorney who is familiar with military family child custody issues and assist you in identifying the processes and protections available for your particular case.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resource:

Design a family care plan

If you have a deployment in your future, be ready for any potential event and create a family care plan ahead of time. Include information such as child care guidance, medical care information, parenting responsibilities, contact information and important documents.

Family care plans are required if you’re a single parent or a dual-military family with children younger than 19. Legal assistance offices can offer advice and review your plan with you.

Relevant Articles:

Relevant Resource:

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Enjoying National Parks as a Military Family

Grand Teton National Park

There’s something for almost everyone in America’s national parks. Follow these travel tips to plan your next great national park adventure:

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or a sit-and-watch-the-world-roll-by kind of person, there’s a national park vacation, day trip or weekend adventure right for you.

Enjoy an outdoor adventure on a budget

Visiting a national park can be very affordable, especially for service members and their families, so pick a park, pack up your car and hit the road. Here are a few travel tips as you plan your next vacation to one of the country’s 423 national parks or areas:

  • Find a park. With fields and forests, canyons and coastline, America’s national parks have something for all kinds of nature lovers. You can search for parks by name, location, activity or topic at the National Park Service website.
  • Visit the park’s website. Once you’ve picked a park, you can download all you need to know about hours, directions, activities and fees. While entrance fees are free for all at some parks (though parking charges may apply), military families — active duty, National Guard, reserve and Coast Guard members, dependents of U.S. military members with DD For 1173, U.S. military cadets, veterans and gold star family members — qualify for a free America the Beautiful Military Pass (mentioned above) that can come in handy for those that do charge. Many parks issue passes onsite, or you can plan your visit to a park on one of the six free entrance dates.
  • Pick your activities. National parks offer exciting activities for all ages. If you have children, check out the Junior Ranger events and programs. Remember, you can search for activities everyone in your family can enjoy. You can also find wheelchair-accessible activities and trails.
  • Contact the MWR program. Don’t forget to contact MWR on your installation for lodging discounts and options. Also, see what equipment you can rent before you head out on your adventure. Whether you need a kayak, skis and snow boots, or a boat, the program has a lot of gear available to rent.
  • Stop by your Information, Tickets and Travel office. This is where you can score majorly discounted tickets to nearby attractions and activities outside the parks too. ITT expanded its services through American Forces Travel℠, an ecommerce website, making ITT available 24/7. With online access to these military discounts for lodging, concerts, theater, sporting events and more, there’s no reason to pay full price.
  • Play it safe. Always follow the rules and warning signs at each park. Stay alert and observe wild life from a safe distance. Remember to protect the wildlife by cleaning up any trash you create and don’t feed the animals.
  • Have fun. The great outdoors can bring joy to your body and mind. It can provide you with fresh air, a new perspective and time to think or relax — things many of us don’t get enough of.  Take advantage of your national parks as they can be a healthy outlet for you and your family. Get up, get out and explore your world.

With free passes, discounted outdoor gear and tons of activities, you can spend quality time with your family and explore the country’s national parks. Get free, year-round access to national parks and other federal recreation spots with the America the Beautiful Military Pass.

Living on Your Military Paycheck

Service member holding cash

You can take control of your financial future today. Start small with a few simple changes to save more, spend less and better manage your day-to-day finances.

Pay Raises

Military personnel receive pay raises that are linked to private-sector raises, as measured by the Employment Cost Index. These raises are for both reserve and active-duty service members.

  • Draw a line in the sand. Give yourself and your family a start date and commit to making changes from that date forward.
  • Find out how much income you have to work with. See the Basic Pay tables for active duty and reserves and log in to myPay to manage your pay and other financial accounts.
  • Make a spending plan and stick to it. Calculate your expenses, review what you spend and pledge to better manage your money.
  • Hunt for places to trim spending. Downgrade to a lower monthly cable or cellphone plan, and use those savings to reduce your debt down a peg or two.
  • Shop your commissary and save an average of 30% on groceries and household items. Shop your exchange to make tax-free purchases.
  • Think before you buy. Walk away from big purchases or a string of small purchases. Ask yourself if you really need them – really wanting them doesn’t count. If you can’t justify an expense, it’s an expense that you don’t need right now.
  • Save for big purchases instead of charging them.
  • Check your attitude when it comes to earning extra income. When you need to pay bills, a “that job is beneath me” mindset won’t get you very far.
  • Pay in cash. You’re less likely to waste money when you’re handing over actual currency.
  • Avoid being an emotional shopper. If “retail therapy” or “mental health purchases” thrill you, just wait until you experience how fabulous it feels to be debt-free.
  • Save on expensive air travel by booking your next flight on Space-A passenger transportation. When military flights have extra seats, they open them to military families at no or low cost – and you save big.
  • Take tips from the experts. Get professional advice on how to efficiently pay down your debt and get a grip on your finances.
  • Read the fine print. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can show you how carrying credit card balances keeps you locked in debt.

You’re ready to tackle these challenges and you have support in your corner. Let the financial experts at Military OneSource or your installation’s Personal Financial Management Program help you with financial planning, debt counseling, budgeting, spending plans, overall money management, military loans, mortgage or rent help, and more.

Six Things New Service Members Should Know About Their First Duty Station

service members waiting for instruction

You went through weeks learning basic military skills, then months learning your military job. Finally, it’s time to take your place in the military at your first duty station.

When you arrive at your new installation, you’ll go through processing. The first place you go is the reception office with a copy of your orders. For example:

After presenting your orders, you may spend the first few weeks learning about the base, meeting key officers and enlisted personnel, discovering where your barracks and the mess hall are and getting clothing and gear issued. You’ll also figure out the do’s and don’ts of installation life. You’ll be integrated into your unit and your job. As the newbie, ask questions to get to know your role and your coworkers better.

At your first duty station, you’ll have more responsibility and more freedom than you did during training. You’ll serve your country, but you’ll also have time for fun and exploring your new surroundings. Here are six tips for making the most of life at your first duty station.

1. Get to know your installation.

As one soldier said, “Don’t live in your barracks.” See what your installation and the surrounding community have to offer. Start with MilitaryINSTALLATIONS. With this tool, you can easily locate your installation and find maps and directions on and off your post. You can also get contact information for programs and services and peruse location overviews and community points of interest.

2. Make friends and have fun.

You’ll probably work and live with the people in your unit until a PCS move or you leave the service. Some of them are likely to become friends, and there will be plenty of opportunities to socialize together.

Your installation’s MWR program gives you the chance to meet people and make the most of your free time. Some installations offer recreational facilities, all at low or no cost. For off-base fun, Information, Tickets and Travel gives you the scoop on sporting events, museums, theme parks, aquariums, zoos, historical sites and other attractions. The America the Beautiful pass gives you free access to national parks and recreation areas where you can hike, climb, ski, surf, stargaze or just relax.

3. Pay attention to the “off-limits” list.

On your installation, you may see lists of places or services declared “off limits” by the base commander. These are usually known trouble spots in the neighborhood – think bad landlords, shady nightclubs or lemon car lots. The lists are posted and are also on your base website – like this one from Fort Bragg – so read them and avoid anything on them. Be aware of predatory lenders, payday loan outfits and others looking to scam you outside the installation.

4. Find military discounts on and off your installation.

The service provides for your basic needs, but one of the perks of military life is shopping at installation commissaries and exchanges. Commissaries are like grocery stores and exchanges are like department stores, and both give you tax-free shopping and discount goods and services. Each service branch has its own exchange system, and you’re entitled to shop at any of them, either in person or online.

Your military ID gets you discounts to events, destinations and more off base as well. You can get discounted tickets to many local activities like sporting events, concerts, movies, museums and vacation packages through your installation’s ITT office.

5. Enjoy family and friends visits.

If your family, friends or significant other would like to visit you on base, they certainly can. Most installations welcome visitors for events such as deployment homecomings or holiday parties. You’ll find instructions for civilian visitors on your installation’s website.

Some installation recreation facilities – such as bowling alleys and movie theaters – are open to civilian guests if they are accompanied by a service member. You can also show your guests a good time off base – at concerts, amusement parks and sporting events – with discounted tickets from ITT.

6. Check out Military Family Readiness Centers.

Before you dismiss this resource because of its name, understand installation-based Military and Family Support Centers are a resource hub for all service members, whether you’re single or married. They can help you connect the dots on your new installation and surroundings.

The people at these centers can help you with many things like getting a good deal when buying your first car, planning your first PCS, understanding housing options, finding places to socialize and connect to your new community, preparing for deployment, getting personal financial help and more. The centers may go by different names, but they all offer helpful resources for military life issues. Check out MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to locate the center nearest you.

You can also learn more about your new duty station or get answers to your military life questions by contacting Military OneSource by phone at 800-342-9647 or live chat.

Free Resources for Service Members to Gain Financial Security

Two service members work together

From budgeting and car buying to building a good credit score or getting a handle on student loans, your service member has access to several free benefits and protections to help them gain firm financial footing.

  • Free financial counseling is available through Military OneSource. Financial counselors can help service members with things like budgeting, money management, debt management or assistance with housing issues. Military OneSource MilTax is also available for free tax consultations, filing and tax preparation resources. They can get started by calling 800-342-9647 or starting a live chat.
  • There are personal financial managers and counselors at your service member’s installation. These certified professionals offer classes and can meet in person with your service member for free. Learn about the many other resources the Office of Financial Readiness offers your member.
  • Two laws — the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the Military Lending Act — afford your service member with several financial and legal protections as a benefit of military service, including reduced interest rates, protection from wrongful loan practices and the ability to terminate certain leases and contracts. Learn more about these protections.
  • Benefits.gov has information on interest rate reductions, tax benefits, educational and medical benefits, and other advantages that service members and immediate family members are entitled to.
  • The Defense Finance and Accounting Service offers service members a three-tiered retirement plan that spans from paying an equal amount of Social Security taxes to assisting military members with growing their finances through a long-term savings plan.
  • There are 11 personal finance calculators available to help service members manage their money and take the first step in making a financial decision. To get started, they can log in to create an account with Military OneSource.
  • Retirement calculators can help your service member project their income when they retire from the military. The High-3 and Final Pay military retirement calculators are for those who joined the military between Sept. 8, 1980 and July 31, 1986. Others can use the official BRS Retirement Calculator to estimate their pension under the blended retirement system plan.
  • Free help preparing and filing taxes is available through the MilTax and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs.
  • Two new benefits from the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program can give your service member’s spouse a career boost. Free membership to Udemy, an online career development platform, gives spouses access to more than 5,000 courses to prepare for a new career or take their current one to the next level. The program is available through June 29, 2022. Spouses can also register for a free one-year membership in FlexJobs, a job site that specializes in flexible and remote job openings.
  • American Forces Travel is a one-stop travel booking site that can save your service member money on travel and entertainment.

Four money-management reminders to share with your service member

For your service member, being in the military may mean having a steady paycheck for the first time. However, they may need some help when it comes to budgeting and spending wisely. You can help them get on firm financial ground by sharing these four money-management tips.

  1. Set up a monthly budget. Your loved one receives a set amount of income each month, and they need to be sure it can cover their bills and expenses. They should make a list of their monthly expenses — such as rent, car insurance, cell phone, clothing and groceries — and then compare those expenses to their monthly income. This will determine how much they need to set aside for bills each month, and how much will be left over. Here are some other budgeting tips:
    • Create an emergency fund for unexpected expenses, such as when their car breaks down or for replacing a lost cell phone. They can choose a specific day and number of dollars to contribute to their emergency fund on a monthly basis.
    • Set aside a certain amount of “fun money” every month and use it to pay for things like entertainment and eating out.
  2. When buying a car, consider buying “used.” A shiny new car is nice, but the monthly payments and insurance may put a strain on their finances. A used and affordable car could more comfortably fit within their budget. Some additional car buying tips:
    • Save a bit of money to make a down payment, which can lower the monthly payment.
    • Shop around for an auto loan and insurance to make sure they are getting a good deal.
    • Avoid add-on products like service contracts, window etching, and tire, dent and paint protection packages — they increase payments.
  3. Bonuses: Spend some, save some. Enlistment bonuses and other special pay can amount to thousands of dollars, and it may be tempting for your service member to use it all on dream or impulse buys. Help them make the most of it by encouraging them to divide it — use part for something special and the rest to improve their financial standing by building up their emergency fund, paying down debt or contributing to their Thrift Savings Plan.
  4. Limit the use of credit. Using credit cards is one way to build a credit history, which is important for buying a home or taking out a loan. However, misusing credit can lead to mounting debt. Encourage your service member to use credit responsibly, for convenience — not as a lifestyle. Also let them know that paying off cards quickly to prevent a growing balance can help them avoid paying even more in interest. Other tips:
    • Shop around to find the credit card with the lowest interest rate and with no annual fee.
    • Look for cards that offer low introductory interest rates or allow users to transfer balances from high-interest cards at 0% interest. (Military credit cards, such as the MILITARY STAR card offers a low interest rate, no annual fees, no late or over-limit fees, and can be used at commissaries and exchanges around the world.)

Finally, your service member can learn the fundamentals of money management by taking the Money Matters courses. These free courses were developed for service members by financial experts who understand the military. They cover consumer credit, creating smart financial goals, setting a realistic spending plan, making smart money moves, negotiating when buying a car and avoiding debt during a PCS.

The military wants service members to make good financial decisions, which can only help them in their military careers. If the service member in your life doesn’t know where to start or has specific questions, Military OneSource is here to help them get answers and reach their financial goals.

Military Families: How You Can Advocate for Your Child With Special Needs

Special Olympics participant runs during a track and field event

All parents advocate — speak on behalf of their child — for their child’s needs to teachers, doctors and others so their child can grow up happy and successful. Advocacy can include learning laws, finding resources and even representing your child to special program administrators, school boards and others.

When you are an effective advocate, you understand the policies and procedures and know who to turn to for support for your family. Here are some helpful tips to get started advocating for your military child with special needs.

Gather information and gain knowledge for military family support

WEBINAR: Moving With an IEP

Military families may face challenges when moving with a child who has an Individualized Education Program. Learn the steps the new school takes when your child enrolls and options available if you disagree on your child’s services.

Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you can find ways to help your child. Understanding your child’s diagnosis and treatment options is only the start. Here’s a list of need-to-know items to get you started:

  • Your military child’s rights to resources and education under federal and state law, including the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, and the Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA. Learn the terms associated with special education.
  • Your child’s specific needs in the classroom and at home, because the more specific your requests for resources, the more your child’s true needs can be met.
  • Your child’s future needs, including possible care as an adult with special needs. Planning ahead may help you navigate potential waitlists for services and financial costs.
  • The resources and programs currently available in your community, especially in rural areas. Be sure to ask about eligibility, waitlists and referrals to other organizations that may provide similar services. It’s better to find these sooner rather than later.
  • The people in charge of your child’s programs and resources, at school and in the broader community. Knowing who does what, at which program, helps you connect with the right people the first time, saving you precious time. Connect with these people.

Remember, good advocates learn how to work best with the system. You’ll find your needs —  and your child’s — will more likely be met when you are assertive and factual in communicating both your feelings and your child’s needs. Visit EFMP & Me to create customized checklists and view tips and resources to help you support your child with special needs.

Special Care Organizational Record for Children with Special Health Care Needs

Keep records to get the military family support you need

Most parents keep their children’s medical records out of habit. Keep official records on treatments that worked and didn’t — so you can advocate for what works for your child at this duty station and the next. Successful advocates also have their child’s behavioral and special education records, including any accommodations previously used and their effectiveness.

Additionally, take notes, keeping track of who you spoke to, when, as well as what was said. Whenever possible, send emails as a follow-up to people you speak to in person or over the phone. That way, you’ll have a time-stamped paper trail in case someone forgets your conversation.

The Special Care Organizational Record can help you track and organize information in one central location. You can also share your SCOR with someone standing in for you so they’ll have access to information at their fingertips.

Don’t try to do everything by yourself

Advocating for your child with special needs doesn’t have to be your job alone. National and local organizations are ready and waiting for you to find them with a quick internet search.

The Department of Defense also offers special programs like the Exceptional Family Member Program. EFMP Family Support providers at your installation can help you organize and plan for upcoming meetings or refer you to local resources.

Exceptional Family Member Program Resources Options and Consultations specialty consultants can connect you to free resources and specialists to ensure you get the help you need to be the best advocate for your child. Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or use live chat to schedule an appointment with a special needs consultant. OCONUS/International? Click here for calling options. Appointments are available seven days a week.

Keeping Your Children Safe

Young children give a thumbs up

In many ways, parenting is a lot like a military job — it’s a 24/7/365 commitment.

As a parent, you are balancing the elements of your life with your child’s needs, and it can be tricky to manage. Your work, your relationship with your partner, even daily tasks, like laundry can make it challenging to be ever-present for your children. At the same time, you know that any lack of attention, including leaving a child alone at home, in the car, in the bathtub or in a public area, such as a playground creates a higher risk for childhood injuries and even a tragedy.

Parenting questions? We all have them.

Try Thrive — a free, online parenting-education program. It can help you raise healthy, resilient children.

Here are a few important ways to help keep children safe.

Four safety wins for military parents

Your first job as a parent is to keep your child safe. That is often easier said than done, as anyone who’s had a toddler bolt into a busy parking lot will tell you.

Consider these safety tips to take your parenting game to the next level:

  1. Arrange for supervision. To ensure your child is safe when you can’t be around, consider military child care options, including the child development centers, family child care homes, school age care programs and youth centers on your installation. You can also utilize community-based child care programs offered through the fee assistance program known as Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood, or MCCYN, and military-affiliated programs, such as Boys & Girls Clubs of America, serving youth ages 6-18, and the Armed Services YMCA. The Department of Defense is also proud to offer an expanded child care service to help meet the growing and diverse needs of military families. Through Military OneSource, parents can now access a nationally recognized caregiver database to search for hourly, flexible and on-demand child care. For more information about the online caregiver search service and to register, visit the Military OneSource Expanded Hourly Child Care Options page.
  2. Eliminate home hazards. Childproofing your home is more than just covering electric outlets and installing cabinet latches. Nearly nine million children are treated for unintentional injuries in hospital emergency departments each year. For families who move a lot, it can be tough to remember just how many things pose a danger to children. The most common hazards include:
    • Unsecured firearms – Every day, approximately 20 children in the U.S. are hospitalized for gun-related injuries. Keep firearms in a gun safe and store ammunition separately.
    • Medications, vitamins, personal care products and household cleaners – Most poisonings occur when parents or caregivers are home but are not paying attention. Keep potential poisons out of reach.
    • Water – A child can drown in just a few inches of bath water. Never leave a young child alone in a bathtub, and secure toilets and other sources of water in your home.
    • Climbing hazards – Bookcases, dressers and TVs can easily fall on children attempting to climb them. Secure furniture with brackets or straps. Place furniture away from open windows too.
    • Hot stoves – Keep the handles of pots and pans turned inward and out of children’s reach and be aware of where your children are when you’re using the stove. Use back burners when possible to make pots and pans inaccessible.
    • Unsafe bedding – Accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed is one of the primary causes of sudden infant death. Keep your infant’s bed clear of stuffed animals, pillows, crib bumpers and soft bedding. If you live in a cold climate, talk to your pediatrician about the safest way to keep your infant warm in bed.
  3. Power down your electronic devices. There are about a million things going on in the life of a parent from one moment to the next — grocery lists, job tasks, social media and nonstop “breaking news.” Technology has made it easier than ever to multitask, but it’s also made it easier to lose focus on your children. Electronic distractions can rob us of precious time and attention needed to keep children safe and healthy.

    Remember that too much attention to the cellphone or TV can be a distraction from the supervision your child needs. Children know when they have your full attention, and it will make them feel important and loved. Plus, studies indicate that parental use of media is a strong predictor of child media habits. Find tips on healthy device habits and powering down technology and for both you and your children and establishing a family media plan.

  4. Reach out to your community. The military community is also a parenting community. Chances are, a lot of the people in your unit, your job and in your chain of command are parents too. Reach out. You may be surprised by the tips you’ll get from neighbors, co-workers or child care providers. Before using any tip, be sure it makes sense for you and your child.

Check out MilParent groups and more resources for parents or read up on ideas for how to connect with other parents or help a MilParent you know.

Military Legal Resources Available to You

Hand stamping paperwork

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

When legal issues arise, service members and their families have a number of free resources at the ready. Legal assistance is available whether you need an expert to review a contract or help with estate planning. If you need to finalize deployment-related legal documents, legal assistance can help. You can also get advice on mediation for child custody. Here are some of your options.

Free legal help from the Legal Assistance Office

Your installation’s Legal Assistance Office can serve you in many situations where you may need legal advice or help completing legal documents; however, representation in court is not available for service members or their families. Active-duty military, retired service members and their families are eligible for free legal assistance, including:

  • Drafting powers of attorney
  • Drafting wills
  • Guiding estate planning
  • Providing family law advice (adoption, marriage, divorce, alimony and property division)
  • Reviewing contracts and leases
  • Providing notary services
  • Offering consumer advice (ranging from debt management and credit reporting to identity theft)
  • Helping with taxes
  • Assisting in immigration and naturalization issues
  • Advising in civil lawsuits
  • Protecting service members’ rights and responsibilities

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act offers help with a range of rights and benefits, from interest rate reductions to eviction protection. Know your rights and available perks.

For document translation services, contact Military OneSource Specialty Consultations. You can get help translating a lease during an overseas move, a birth certificate or marriage license. Call a Military OneSource consultant at
800-342-9647 for document translation or legal matters.

Where your Legal Assistance Office cannot help

There are other issues that your Legal Assistance Office won’t be able to assist you with. They include:

  • Providing legal advice to third parties or opposing parties on the same issue
  • Claims against the government and criminal matters
  • Legal matters concerning your privately owned business
  • In-court representation

Generally, legal assistance attorneys do not represent clients in court. However, some service branches offer the Expanded Legal Assistance Program. This program allows for in-court representation in limited cases. See below for help finding a private civilian lawyer.

Use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance Locator to find your nearest Legal Assistance Office.

Help with other legal matters: private lawyers, Military Defense Counsel

For criminal matters or other issues not available through your installation’s Legal Assistance Office, you’ll most likely want to consider a private civilian attorney. If you’re facing discharge or criminal prosecution by the military, you can seek assistance from a Military Defense Counsel.

Seeking nonmilitary counsel

Services provided within a Legal Assistance Office are free. However, you may need to pay for private civilian counsel. If so, ask your legal assistance attorney if your case qualifies for pro bono or reduced-fee representation. If not, ask about private civilian legal representation available in your community.

Seeking Military Defense Counsel

Military Defense Counsels are legal offices separate from your local Legal Assistance Office. They are available if you are facing prosecution by the military. As a service member, you have the right to be represented at your court-martial.

Military Defense Counsels are certified judge advocates. They provide independent and confidential legal representation and advice for service members who are:

  • Suspected of an offense
  • Facing adverse administrative actions

A Military Defense Counsel can help you in many situations, including pretrial investigations, other investigations and administrative separation proceedings. They can also help with letters of reprimand, denial or revocation of a security clearance and court-martial proceedings.

Each of the service branches has a different name for its Defense Counsel Office:

Find the contact information for the nearest Defense Counsel in your installation’s telephone directory. Your installation Trial Defense Service Office, Defense Services Office or area Defense Counsel Office may have a local website with helpful information.

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Expedite Airline Boarding with TSA Precheck

Hand reaches out to accept boarding pass

The next time you get to the airport and see a long line at security, keep your shoes on and your laptop packed: Active-duty service members are eligible for expedited screening through the TSA PreCheck. You can board your flight quicker with TSA PreCheck at more than 180 airports nationwide — and you don’t even have to be in uniform.

What are the benefits of the TSA PreCheck Program?

When passing through airport security, program members don’t have to remove the following:

  • Shoes
  • A 3-1-1 compliant bag from carry-on baggage
  • Laptop from its bag
  • Light outerwear
  • Belt

How can I use my TSA PreCheck benefits?

  • Use the Defense Travel System to book your flights when on official travel. Vacation flights can be booked through any airline or travel site.
  • Enter your Department of Defense ID number (the 10-digit number on the back of your common access card) when asked for your “known traveler number.”
  • Save your Department of Defense ID number in your Defense Travel System profile to make sure you’re always signed up for the program when on official travel.
  • Keep in mind if you’re booking your flight through a commercial travel office that they are not required to ask for your known traveler number. Be ready to provide it on your own.

Your TSA PreCheck eligibility information will be embedded in the barcode on your boarding pass. Some airlines print a PreCheck-approved indicator on your pass.

The bottom line: You can check your eligibility at a dedicated security lane as long as you enter your Department of Defense ID number as your known traveler number when you make your reservation.

What else do I need to know?

  • Family members younger than age 12 can also pass through expedited screening if they’re flying with you.
  • Expedited boarding isn’t a guarantee — TSA always reserves the right to incorporate random security measures to ensure passenger safety.

Learn more about TSA PreCheck.