Legal Question in Military Law in North Carolina

I'm looking for a pro bono lawyer (or someone with payment terms) to take a military case. The short of it is that I was sent home on convelescent leave almost four years ago due to an injury during basic. Did not have the insurance that was promised and had to get state assistance. Since then I have had two knee surgeries, my knee went out and I fell downsteps- hitting my head which caused me to have a seizure (I take meds twice a day for seizures now, I've had about 20-30 since the fall and had my license suspended), I've had a hysterectomy, committed to a pysch ward for depression caused my injury, I've been fighting irititus for over 7 months and have vision problems in my right eye, suffer chronic pain, etc.

The Army considers me AWOL because when they told me to come back for medical, doctors were against me traveling due to my health. I refused, but told them why. I have not tried to hide from them- up until my last move, I provided them with my addresses and phone numbers. I've requested my medical records (as well as other doctors) and they still have not been released- almost four years later. I was on a dead man's profile for entire month when I was there before they sent me home on leave. (which I still haven't been reimbursed for)

I'm swamped with medical bills, can't properly care for my children, miss work because of appointments and medical issues....I want it to end. I love my country I willing to defend it to the end, but I'm broke. I haven't been able to run, squat, sit on my knees or bend properly for 4 years. I have to take seizure meds for the rest of my life. I can hardly see out of my right eye. And I'm in chronic pain- all of the time.

I know that they have me as AWOL, but I deserved to be medically discharged. I've been punished over and over again. Everyday I wake, I'm being punished. I need someone to help me with medical discharge. I deserve it, my kids deserve it. Someone, please help me.

Asked on 5/31/10, 2:27 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

William J. Holmes Attorney at Military Law

The first thing you have to do is to go back to the Army. They cannot give you a medical discharge while AWOL charges are pending against you. This has to be resolved and straightened out before they can even begin to consider a medical discharge. Make sure you have an attorney who will help you through this because you are facing possible charges for AWOL which could include a court-martial. I would not think this would be likely under your circumstances, but we cannot dismiss this as a possibility. Thus, you will need an attorney who understands military criminal and administrative law as well as the medical discharge issues. When you go back, make sure you have all of your medical records to explain why you could not come back earlier and all of your issues. With this, we can try to demonstrate the severity of your medical issues and hopefully get them to drop any possible charges.

Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any additional questions.

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Answered on 6/01/10, 6:40 am
James Matthew Branum James M. Branum, Attorney at Law

You do legally need to return to the Army, but you need to first document fully all of your medical issues and the other reasons you went AWOL. In particular, you need to document any health issues for your kids.

After you have that documentation in hand, ideally you will want to have your attorney communicate with your command and to arrange a turn-in under favorable conditions. And then after that, be ready to make the case so that you can be discharged (ideally on medical grounds, but more likely under a chapter) instead of being court-martialed.

If it is impossible to return due to child care issues, then the case will be more complicated. Basically though it may be possible to exert pressure on the military (through press, congressional inquiries, and other venues) to get them to discharge you with minimal time away from your family.

In either case, please feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email. Cost-wise I do my fees on a sliding scale (hourly rate for low income folks is $75 per hour, normally the initial retainer will be around $750). My contact info is at

If you can't afford that, I would suggest you contact the GI Rights hotline for help. They are a free service that can help point you towards self-help information. The hotline counselors are NOT lawyers but they can be hugely helpful. Their # is 877-447-4487. Website is

But in either case, don't let this hang out there too long. It is better to get moving and have some action that gets you closer to having your situation resolved.

Good luck and hang in there!

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Answered on 6/02/10, 2:31 pm

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