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Home : News : News
NEWS | Dec. 7, 2022

JBSA legal offices available to assist families with special education needs

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

While some children of service members enjoy the chance for a fresh start when they move to a new school due to a parent’s change in duty station, others may struggle, especially those with special education needs.

The good news is that Joint Base San Antonio legal offices are now ready to assist with special education law matters, ensuring military families, as well as retirees, understand their children’s right to a free and appropriate public education.

“Congress recently passed laws to support service members who have family members with special education needs,” said Jim Tripp, legal assistance attorney and chief of Soldier Legal Services at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.

According to Tripp, per section 582(b)(7) of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the Services are to provide legal assistance by an attorney trained in special education law.

“We provide legal counseling on the process, the various laws that govern special education, and individual education plans, or IEPs, and Section 504 accommodations,” he said. “We also review the paperwork associated with these cases, which can be overwhelming for parents new to the process.”

Tackling the ins and outs of special education law requires a different perspective, compared to the work military legal offices normally see, but attorneys at JBSA who work with families having special education needs received intensive, specialized training at the William and Mary Law School of Law. 

Once a family seeks assistance, they will meet with a legal assistance attorney to talk about their child’s circumstances, according to Brad Mitchell, chief of legal assistance with the 502nd Force Support Group. The attorney will then help the family prepare to meet with school officials.

In general, the attorney does not provide in-person representation at school interviews or administrative hearings, he said.

Any military family is welcome to schedule an appointment with an attorney to discuss their child’s special education needs, no matter how big or small the need may seem.

“Like our other legal guidance, we adjust our advice to each client’s needs and experience level,” Mitchell said. “Many of our clients are new to the process, so we start with the fundamental federal protections and an overview of the process.  Some other clients have worked with multiple school districts across several PCSs, and just want to discuss a few finer points.”

“As part of our role as the main legal assistance office for JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, we also have the mission to educate the military community,” Mitchell said. “This includes reaching out through our Legal Lunch & Learn talk show, handouts, or presentations at Commanders’ Calls and our excellent Military & Family Readiness Center.”

Mitchell pointed out that Military and Family Readiness Centers also offer resources through the Exceptional Family Member Program.

"They host a monthly meeting for families, and we’ve spoken at several of them,” he said. “This included discussions focusing on special education law assistance.”

Legal office representatives have also participated in EFMP-focused sessions regarding special estate planning and legal tools to help EFMP families.

“Our Staff Judge Advocate, Lt. Col. Satura Gabriel, is committed to continuing to partner with the M&FRC and others to reach out to families, as well as working with individual families on their specific circumstances,” Mitchell said.

Parents who want to discuss their child’s special educational needs with a legal assistance attorney are welcome to make an appointment with the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Legal Office at, or with the legal offices on JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-3362 or JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-6781.