Law helps soldiers who are returning home from duty

The Madison County Record Sep. 13, 2009, 12:23pm

Several laws in Illinois are designed to protect service people called to duty, and their families.

The State has made allowances in various rules and laws to ease immediate responsibilities for service men and women called to duty. The goal of these provisions is to prevent financial and other hardship that might result from active duty in the United States military.

Hundreds of Illinois soldiers who are returning home from the war overseas are entitled to reemployment upon their return, according to federal law.

Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act, military personnel must have given written or verbal advance notice to their employer and not have a cumulative length of absences due to service in excess of five years. They must submit an application for reemployment within an appropriate time frame, which varies depending on the length of military service and whether the person has a service-connected injury or illness.

Other sections of the law provide for driver's license and license plate renewal, power of attorney, wills and living wills, fair credit reporting, and student loans.

Military personnel have up to 45 days after their return to renew their Illinois driver's license. Plate renewal forms should be returned with an armed forces reserve affidavit form – called the "certificate of military service" – and a note explaining that the person was on active duty.

The power of attorney is a written document authorizing a particular person to use an individual's signature and make certain financial and property decisions in the service person's absence. A lawyer should assist in drawing up this formal document.

Making a will not only protects families but ensures that property is left to those selected by the service person, in the event of his or her death. An attorney can draw up the will, as well as advise on a "living will" or "advance medical directive" that provides instructions for the use of extraordinary life-sustaining measures if a service person becomes seriously ill or injured.

Any circumstances that may cause financial problems, such as being called to duty, should be reported to the credit bureau for inclusion in a person's credit file.

Under federal law, student loans may be eligible for deferment based on active duty status.

Some organizations waive their membership dues for those serving in the armed forces.

Any area military base can provide assistance to service personnel and their families through the Legal Assistance Office. Further information is also available in a free brochure from the Illinois State Bar Association entitled "Called to Duty."

For further information about law-related issues, contact an Illinois State Bar Association member-lawyer in your area or visit

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