JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. ( Feb. 8, 2013) -- The Fort Eustis Command Judge Advocate Claims office is helping injured Soldiers avoid paying too much in attorney fees through its Assistance to Injured Parties Program.
According to James Akridge, the Fort Eustis Office of Command Judge Advocate chief of claims, the purpose of the program is to educate and help injured personnel understand the costs of legal services. While the staff does not serve as legal counsel, they provide valuable legal advice to personnel.
Staff Sgt. M. Fanchon White, a 1-210th Aviation Regiment, A Company operations noncommissioned officer, was involved in a vehicle accident, and heard from a close friend about the help she could receive.
“I am happy that this program is available to Soldiers,” she said. “The program helped me to know what to expect and how to handle the stress of the aftermath of a car accident.”
However, the program is not available to all Soldiers. Once a Service member hires a lawyer, the claims office is prohibited from speaking with the individual without the lawyer’s consent.
“Early identification is important because patients with lawyers are not eligible for the assistance program,” said Akridge. “The claims office works with their lawyers, but the calculation of fees generally is not discussed.”
According to Akridge, the program originated 17 years ago as part of the Army’s Medical Affirmative Claims Program, which is Congressionally-mandated as part of an agreement that all branches of service appropriately recover the cost of medical care from accident insurance.
It has since evolved into a more comprehensive program to fulfill the Army’s mission to collect claims, improving efficiencies across the board.
Joy French, a dual employee of MEDDAC and the Fort Eustis Legal Office, has built a network within McDonald Army Health Center that identifies injured parties as they come in for medical treatment.
The assistance program now includes a three-hour briefing featuring information tailored to Virginia claims practice.
Akridge’s years of experience on claims against the Army offers insight into what is important when it comes to evaluating damages, and how insurance companies evaluate and settle claims.
“The bulk of the briefing is to assist those with minor injuries and who do not wish to hire counsel,” said Akridge. “I offer common guidelines for when an attorney might be appropriate, and discuss numerous options short of paying a third of your recovery to a law firm.”
The Assistance to Injured Parties Program is available to all military personnel, including family members and retirees, and those covered by TRICARE. Members of other services are directed to points of contact within their respective agencies.
Editor’s note: For more information, contact Sandra Jackson at (757) 878-3536, ext. 237 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The office is closed from noon to 1 p.m. daily for lunch, and Thursday mornings until 1 p.m. for Post Sergeant’s Time.
Staff Sgt. Ashley Hawkins, 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs