Take time to think about your future needs for National Healthcare Decisions Day

  • Published
  • By Jim Tripp
  • Legal Assistance Attorney, Soldier Legal Services

While April 16 was National Healthcare Decisions Day – a day set aside to take time to think about current and future healthcare needs – these needs take on new meaning when we are confronted with an unexpected healthcare challenge like the COVID-19 coronavirus.

It reminds us to seek legal counsel when it comes to the need for three important documents:

  • An advanced medical directive (also called a living will)
  • A healthcare power of attorney
  • A durable financial power of attorney.

While we don’t like to think about us our loved ones facing a medical issue, these documents become critically important during a health crisis.

Once you have these documents, the next step is to inform the people that need to know where to find the documents – especially the individual you have appointed in the documents. These documents don’t do anyone any good if they can’t be located.

Legal readiness is military readiness. If you do not have these three documents, you are not as ready as you need to be.

These healthcare-decision documents spell out what happens to you if you are medically incapacitated. They tell your loved ones that you have taken the time to make informed decisions about how you want them to act on your behalf.

This gives your loved ones peace of mind, knowing that they understand your wishes and have guidance on how to carry out those wishes under extremely difficult circumstances.

These documents also give those appointed the legal right to advocate on your behalf, and the power to ensure your wishes are followed by your healthcare providers.

Together, an advanced medical directive, health care power of attorney, and durable financial power of attorney convey to the world your wishes if you can no longer advocate for yourself. Executed correctly, healthcare providers must follow your wishes and must listen to the people you appoint to act on your behalf. Without these documents, you risk confusion and anxiety among those who want to care for you should something unfortunate and unforeseen happen.

It’s not enough simply to have the documents in your possession. The people you appoint to act on your behalf must be able to find them, so it is important to store them in a safe and accessible place. Inform the person(s) you appoint that you have done so and confirm they are ready and willing to act on your behalf.

Each military service has a group of legal personnel dedicated to helping you draft and execute these documents – they are located at your local legal assistance office.

For military members at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, the legal assistance office is located at 2422 Stanley Road, building 134, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, and can be reached at 210-808-0169.

At JBSA-Lackland, the Air Force office is located at 1701 Kenly Avenue, suite 106, and can be reached at 210-671-3363. At Security Hill, the office is located at 469 Moore Street and can be reached at 210-977-2291.

At JBSA-Randolph, the legal office is located at1 Washington Circle, suite 6, building 100, and can be reached at 210-652-6781. To find other legal assistance offices, use the locator service at https://legalassistance.law.af.mil/.