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Session will help military families

There's plenty of uncertainty when someone ships off to serve in a combat zone. Steven Dittrich hopes to provide a few answers.

Dittrich, a Rochester lawyer and a Major in the Army Reserve, will speak Jan. 12 at the Robert Trail Library about some of the legal issues that affect military personnel and their families, and about resources available to families who have a loved one serving overseas.

It's a subject Dittrich knows a little bit about. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004. He said he had to learn along the way about things like an application to reduce to 6 percent the interest on credit card debt accrued before a deployment or about free counseling sessions available to family members who are having a difficult time dealing with the deployment.

"That was kind of what I discovered along the way," Dittrich said. "There were briefings out there and they were helpful, but kind of along the way, searching your own things out. My goal here is to let them know where these resources are and who they can call. Local people."

There are a number of options available to help the families of people who have been deployed. Families can defer paying income taxes while a family member is overseas, and it is possible to get out of cell phone contracts and car leases while deployed.

"I don't know if AT&T covers Afghanistan," Dittrich said. "I doubt it."

But with a relatively small military presence in the state, people don't always have the resources they need to find out about such benefits. Dittrich wants to help people make those contacts.

Dakota County Law Library manager Liz Reppe organized the session as a way to open the library's resources to the community. The library offers regular legal education sessions for lawyers, but Reppe said most of the people who use the library are non-lawyers interested in representing themselves. She wants to reach out to that group.

Reppe has already held a session on grandparents' rights at the South St. Paul Library and a session on foreclosure at the Apple Valley library.

Rosemount, with a National Guard armory that serves as the home base for the 34th Infantry Division, currently serving in Iraq, seemed like a natural location for a session targeted at military families.

"It's kind of just things that would be topical and relevant for military families," Reppe said.

Reppe went to the American Bar Association looking for a volunteer to speak on the subject and Dittrich stepped forward.

The free information session will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Robert Trail Library. Dittrich will speak for 20 to 25 minutes, then take questions. He will also be available for individual discussions with anyone who does not want to raise their issue in public.