By Julie Provost
The Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) is important to service members and their families that have special needs. EFMP could change the course of the service member’s career, create roadblocks for moving forward, and can be seen as an unfair and complicated program that, although designed to help, often doesn’t.
EFMP is a mandatory DoD program to provide comprehensive community support for family members with special needs. This is to help them receive the proper housing, educational, medical, and personnel services that they need at each duty station.
Active duty service members should enroll family members after a diagnosis. Family members will also need to be screened before they can be approved for an overseas move. Although some families have chosen not to do so and send the service member to overseas locations alone, most would rather have the services available to them wherever the military is going to send them.
On April 19th, 2017, the DoD released a new instruction on the Exceptional Family Member Program.
So what is the new instruction?
It updates instructions on how EFMP works with regards to family members going overseas.
From the DoD Instruction, 1315.19:
• Establishes the EFMP and establishes policy, provides guidance, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes procedures for:
o Identifying a family member with special needs who is eligible for services as defined in this instruction.
o Coordinating travel at government expense for family members of active duty Service members who are identified with a medical condition that requires coordination with the appropriate medical office of the Service members projected assignment or duty location or those with an early intervention or special education plan that meet the DoD criteria for special education needs.
o Processing DoD civilian employees who have family members with special needs for an overseas assignment.
o Providing family support services to military families with special needs.
• Establishes a system of monitoring and assigns oversight responsibilities for the EFMP.
• Authorizes the development of implementing guidance and forms necessary for the operation of the EFMP in accordance with this instruction. DoDI 1315.19, 04/19/2017
• Does not create any rights or remedies in addition to those already otherwise existing in law or regulation, and may not be relied upon by any person, organization, or other entity to allege a denial of such rights or remedies.
You can read the details of the instruction here. This reissues and cancels “Authorizing Special Needs Family Members Travel Overseas at Government Expense,” December 20, 2005, as amended.
What does this mean?
This update means that individual military branches will need to update their own instructions to comply with the DoD instructions. This will help us better understand the changes. There will need to be updates to the Code of Federal Regulations. This, unfortunately, has been delayed because of the regulatory freeze that President Trump put into action on January 20. Hopefully, this too can be resolved sooner rather than later.
Hope for the future
Many special needs families are hoping for change when it comes to the EFMP. They want to be able to PCS easily with their service member. They don’t want to get lost in a sea of paperwork. They want everything to flow smoother than it has been. These recent changes could mean that things will get easier for special needs families in the military.
Service members want to make sure that their families are taken care of. They also want to move in their careers and focus on their jobs. With better EFMP instructions, more service members can do this and more families will be able to receive exactly what they need no matter what their special needs might be.
Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at [email protected]