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Legal Issues for Military Families with Special Needs

Level: Intermediate
Runtime: 199 minutes
Recorded Date: October 15, 2020
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  • Introduction
  • Education Issues for Military EFMP Families
  • Education Legal Issues for Military Children with Special Needs
  • EFMP and Legal Assistance
  • Guardianship, Disability Benefits, Special Needs Trusts & ABLE Accounts
Runtime: 3 hours, 19 minutes
Recorded: October 15, 2020


This program focuses on legal issues for military families with special needs. You will learn about common educational and school related issues that military families with special needs face. You will also learn about special needs planning for military families, concentrating on special needs trusts, guardianship issues, and public benefits. This program is designed for military attorneys working in legal assistance, as well as civilian lawyers whose practices involve military-connected clients or issues.

This program was recorded on October 15th, 2020.

Provided By

American Bar Association
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Grace E. Kim

Principal Attorney
The Law Office of Grace E. Kim, P.C.

Grace E. Kim is the principal attorney with The Law Office of Grace E. Kim, P.C. She focuses her practice on Special Education and Education Law, to include issues involving the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), restraint and seclusion, school discipline, and higher education issues.

Ms. Kim has been working on behalf of children with Special Needs since 2002 as a mother of a Special Needs child; a paralegal and law clerk who focused on Special Education, School Law and Juvenile Justice; and an attorney dedicating her practice to representing families of Special Needs children with legal and education-related issues.

Grace earned her B.A. degree from Nyack College, her M.A. degree from Alliance Theological Seminary, and her J.D. degree from the George Mason School of Law. Ms. Kim is a founding member of Partners in Promise, an advocacy group working on behalf of military special needs children, and lectures on Special Education and related topics for various organizations. Ms. Kim lives in Virginia with her husband, Joshua, her daughter, Karis (11) and her son, Josiah (17) who is on the Autism Spectrum with comorbid conditions and other neurological and physical disabilities.

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Col. Elizabeth Schuchs-Gopaul (Retired)

Retired Judge
U.S. Air Force

Colonel (Retired) Elizabeth Schuchs-Gopaul served in the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps for over 22 years. While on active duty, she was a four-time installation General Counsel (Staff Judge Advocate), served as Chair of the Criminal Law Division at the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s (Law) School and as the first-ever Special Counsel to The Air Force Judge Advocate General at the Pentagon.

Colonel Schuchs-Gopaul led the Air Force legal community’s first foray into special education and special needs law in support of the Exceptional Family Member Program. Introduced by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, she conducted the Air Force’s first legal training program on this subject reaching over 1000 legal professionals and personalist worldwide in a single webcast. Colonel Schuchs-Gopaul has published several articles on special needs legal issues for military families; which have been featured on and cited in Congressional testimony and textbooks. For leading this effort, she was honored by the American Bar Association with the Keithe E. Nelson Distinguished Service Writing Award in 2012. Over the last ten years, she has lectured on Special Needs Legal Issues for military families at twice for American Bar Association and at six different Air Force legal conferences.

Colonel Schuchs-Gopaul was awarded the 2013 Judge Advocate Association Outstanding Career Armed Services Attorney Award. She was also honored as the Major Command Senior Attorney of the Year in 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018. Upon retirement, she took a break and focused volunteering and her challenging teenage children, Charlie and Evan. She is currently a Hiring Our Heroes Fellow at USAA in San Antonio, Texas.

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Vickie M. O'Brien

Attorney, Exceptional Family Members
U.S. Marine Corps.

Vickie M. O’Brien has been the Attorney for Exceptional Family Members for Marine Corps Installations East since 2009. Her office is located at Camp Lejeune, NC. She is one of only two attorneys for the Marine Corps who provides consultation and representation to Exceptional Family Members for disability related legal issues. The majority of her practice involves assisting families with special education issues, but also focuses on accessibility for people with disabilities in public accommodations and housing. She also represents families seeking guardianship of their adult incapacitated or incompetent children/family members. Lastly, she provides consultation and advice on Medicaid and Social Security benefits. Vickie often provides legal trainings for EFMP staff and families and speaks during EFMP events.

Vickie earned her B.A. in History from Campbell University in 1999 and her J.D. from Regent University in 2002. She has been licensed to practice law in the State of North Carolina since 2002. She is the proud single parent of an artsy and witty daughter, Caroline (15), who has a specific learning disability. She is a voracious reader and collector of Stephen King novels whom she has been reading for over 30 years.

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Alison M. Packard

Packard Law Firm

Alison Packard is an attorney at the Packard Law Firm in San Antonio, Texas. She focuses her practice on special needs planning, including trust and estate work, government benefits, guardianship, alternatives to guardianship, and probate work.

Before practicing law, Alison earned her B.S. in Psychology from Brigham Young University (summa cum laude), and then earned her J.D. from BYU Law School (cum laude), where she met fellow classmate, Dan Packard, on the first day of law school and then later married him. As Alison was preparing to take the bar exam, her life changed dramatically when she gave birth to a beautiful child with special needs. Alison postponed her legal career to devote all her efforts to caring for her daughter, Angela, and other three children. When she returned to the practice of law, she worked in the areas of mass torts and False Claims Act litigation. Alison moved from Boston to San Antonio in 2015 and naturally gravitated to an area of practice where she could help clients who care for family members with special needs. Alison understands and loves her clients. She knows what it is like to fight for and worry about a child with disabilities.

Alison currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Epilepsy Foundation of Central and South Texas and is involved with several other non-profit and service organizations.

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Major Kay M. Perry

Chief of Civil Law Division, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate
U.S. Air Force

Major Kay Perry is an Individual Mobilization Augmentee in the U.S. Air Force Reserve assigned to 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, Minot, North Dakota. The 5 BW/JA offices provides legal advice for the 5th Bomb Wing and the 91st Missile Wing and overall advises 37 commanders on base in support of 5,600 military personnel at the installation. Minot AFB is the nation’s only installation comprised of two nuclear wings to accomplish worldwide missions of air power projection and strategic deterrence for two legs of the nuclear triad.

In her civilian capacity, Kay Perry is the Chief of the Civil Law Division, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, 502d Installation Support Group, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, TX. She is responsible for providing legal advice to the 37th Training Wing, the 59th Medical Wing, the Special Warfare Training Wing, and partner commands.

Maj Perry began her career in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, where she served from 1999 to 2005. After leaving active duty, she worked as a civilian attorney for the U.S. Army Medical Command. She then worked at the University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio. Ms. Perry was in private practice for several years prior to her current position, and in her private practice she primarily focused on estate planning, family law, and health law. Maj Perry joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve in October 2016. Before and during law school, Maj Perry was an enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1995-1999. Maj Perry is licensed in Texas and Missouri.

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Dawn M. Du Verney

Director, Hearing Operations
Social Security Administration

Dawn Du Verney is Hearing Operations Director for the Social Security Administration’s Office of Hearings Operations in Tupelo, Mississippi. Dawn professional background spans a diverse range of executive leadership and legal experience within corporate, academic, social service, faith-based, and government sectors. Prior to joining the Social Security Administration as an attorney in 2010, Dawn held titles, including gubernatorial-appointed Executive Director of the New Jersey Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission, EEO/Ethics Officer for the New Jersey Department of State, Special Counsel to the New Jersey Secretary of State, Associate General Counsel for Handex Environmental, President and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Trenton (NJ), Assistant Deputy Public Defender for the State of New Jersey, and Adjunct Professor for Temple University School of Law and Peirce College in Philadelphia.

Dawn earned a Bachelor of Science degree from The American University, a Juris Doctor from Seton Hall University School of Law, and a LL.M from Temple University Beasley School of Law. In addition, she has certifications and training in organizational development, executive leadership and management, including situational leadership, Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), group leadership intensive facilitation, the lawyer personality, systems thinking, and Japanese Learning Circles (quality).

Dawn’s guiding principle is “To whom much is given, much is expected; and to the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). She values her legal training and gives back to legal profession through active membership in the American Bar Association. Her work has afforded her leadership positions in the Litigation Section, including Division Director, Communications Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, Committee Chair, and Managing Director. She is committed to expanding pro bono representation to all underserved persons. In this regard, she has served as ABA Presidential Appointee to the Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel (LAMP) and the Standing Committee for Pro Bono and Public Service. For the latter, she chaired the Equal Justice Conference and the Pro Bono Publico Awards Committee and Awards Luncheon.

She is married to Steven Wilkins, who is the former Chief Learning Officer for the New Jersey Judiciary and an executive coach for private individuals and corporate clients. They have two adult sons, Ross Jordan and Drew Carrington.

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