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TCL > June 2012 Issue > Special Needs Families in the Military: A Resource Guide

June 2012       Vol. 41, No. 6       Page  74
Review of Legal Resources

Special Needs Families in the Military: A Resource Guide
Reviewed by Stephen A. Braunlich

Review of Legal Resources is published to apprise attorneys of books and other resources that may be of interest to them. Readers wishing to make review suggestions, provide review copies, or write reviews should contact Leona Martínez at For a list of titles available for review at press time, see the "Read a book. Write a review."

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Special Needs Families in the Military:
A Resource Guide

by Janelle Hill and Don Philpott
280 pp.; $34.95
Government Institutes, 2011
4501 Forbes Blvd., Lanham, MD 20706
(301) 459-3366;

Reviewed by Stephen A. Braunlich

Stephen A. Braunlich is a U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, where he serves as Chief of Legal Assistance and Preventive Law. The views expressed are his own and are not endorsed by the U.S. Air Force or the Department of Defense.

Special Needs Families in the Military: A Resource Guide is an inch-deep and a mile-wide resource for servicemembers unexpectedly confronted by special needs issues. The authors explore topics applicable to all special needs families—and some unique to the military—without diving into any one issue in great detail. Thus, although novices may benefit from reading this resource, anyone who deals with special needs issues on a regular basis will quickly move beyond its scope.

The book is organized into ten chapters. The first two chapters deal with first steps and diagnoses. The next five chapters handle the substantive issues of caregiving, education, insurance, medical care, and funding. The final chapters address advocacy, coping, and resources.

The chapters on education, insurance, and medical care do an especially good job of informing readers on their respective topics. The education chapter introduces the overlapping federal rights that special needs children enjoy and explores Department of Defense-specific programs for families stationed overseas. The chapters on insurance and medical care are recommended for any individual who is navigating the military’s TRICARE program and trying to understand how it interacts with other insurance and health-care programs.

The final chapter on resources is another of the book’s strengths. Here, readers will find contact information for advocacy and support groups for various disabilities, as well as numerous simple demand letters that can assist parents with obtaining records, appealing administrative decisions, or taking other such action to benefit their children.

For practitioners, Special Needs Families in the Military suffers from two significant drawbacks. The first is a lack of organization. It can be difficult to find information quickly because there is no cohesive structure among chapters. For example, the book’s many lists are given no standard treatment: readers will find bullets, numbering, alphabetizing, nothing at all, or any combination of formatting. In addition, some information within chapters (such as the thirty-page section on specific diagnoses) would be better placed in an appendix. The second drawback, noted above, is that the authors do not explore unique military issues in depth.

Make no mistake, the book serves as a useful overview for anyone encountering special needs issues for the first time. Those who practice in the field, however, will need a more in-depth, comparative treatment of the various services’ programs.

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