Exceptional Family Member Program: Check Out What’s New!
One of the most exciting aspects of my job is adapting and improving our programs and services to better support our military families. An example of this is the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) – we are working continuously to update the EFMP to better serve our service members and their families.
The EFMP offers many great benefits that can help address the challenges that can come with having a family member with special medical or educational needs. Families can receive assistance with managing appointments, answering questions, and navigating confusing medical and educational systems. The EFMP also provides access to respite care to provide caregivers with an opportunity to rest and reenergize.
Moreover, the EFMP allows service members to focus on their military mission by assuring them that their families are being taken care of. Once you enroll in the EFMP, trained personnel review the availability of resources in projected assignment locations to ensure that wherever you go, your family member’s needs are met.
Sometimes service members are hesitant to request services or enroll in the EFMP as there may be a misconception that enrollment will somehow hurt chances for advancement or limit choices in assignments. This is not the case. Promotion boards do not have access to EFMP enrollment status and enrolled service members will continue to receive equal consideration for accompanied assignments and promotions.
In fact, EFMP enrollment can be a great comfort to a Service member as it can instill confidence that their family’s special needs are being addressed, which can allow them to focus fully on the mission and the important tasks at hand. The program is designed to support your continued work in the military—not to hinder you in any way.
The Military Community and Family Policy Office of Community Support for Military Families with Special Needs (OSN) is always exploring new ways to improve the experience of military families through technology, improved support resources, and access to important information. The EFMP mobile website allows military families to access enrollment forms, resources, podcasts, and an EFMP locator from any mobile device with an Internet connection. Families can find timely articles, resources, and tips through the “The Exceptional Advocate,” a monthly electronic newsletter can arrive in your Inbox the first week of every month.
In addition, The Special Needs Parent Tool Kit and The Special Care Organization Record (SCOR) for Children and the SCOR for Adults have been recently updated. The Tool Kit has comprehensive information and tools for helping military families with special needs children navigate the maze of medical and special education services, community support, and benefits and entitlements. The SCORs are great tools for keeping track of important medical and educational information for your family member with special needs.
In September, the Director of OSN convened a panel of military families with special needs to provide input on their experiences, successes, and challenges. The panel resulted in a list of action steps to improve services which include increasing awareness and communication about the EFMP, ensuring the consistency of available resources across the Services, and improving the availability of medical and respite services.
As you can see, the EFMP is working hard to provide the best possible support for our military families. Your questions, comments, and suggestions are always welcome, so please join our discussion. If you are already enrolled in the EFMP, let us know how it has helped you and your family.
Our military families serve, too, and we owe it to them to provide the support and resources they need. I encourage you to join the thousands of other military families who have decided to enroll in the EFMP and get the support you deserve!
By Robert L. Gordon III
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy)