The sheer volume of information available to family members with special needs can be overwhelming.
The Army wants to make it easier for Soldiers and their family members to navigate the Exceptional Family Member Program, a Defense Department-mandated program to support Soldiers with family members with special needs.
“To do this, we’ve got to fix EFMP so it works better, and we have to get the word out,” said Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, at a recent conference.
In the Army, the proponent activity for EFMP is the Army’s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command. FMWRC’s EFMP managers are currently working with the Army Medical Command and sister-service counterparts to strengthen the program.
“Rather than just creating another awareness campaign, we’re staffing an action plan now that includes hundreds of steps — both baby steps and sweeping changes — that will help create a seamless flow of EFMP information and resources to Soldiers’ families with special needs,” said Marcia Hagood, EFMP specialist.
“It’s important to note that the program isn’t broken, we’re just making it better,” Hagood added.
The Army’s EFMP currently has 52,573 Soldiers enrolled and 69,493 family members registered. Program managers expect enrollments to increase as program education and awareness is raised.
Hagood emphasized that it’s important for all Soldiers who have family members with special medical and/or educational needs to enroll in the EFMP. Not only is enrollment mandatory, but enrollment ensures optimum use of permanent change of station money by considering the Army’s requirements, the Soldier’s career and the special needs of family members.
“It’s not ‘big brother’ wanting to know,” Hagood said. “It’s all about ensuring the Army allows the Soldier to focus on the needs of the military without unnecessary concerns for his/her exceptional family member.”
The program was established in compliance with public laws, which collectively mandate that eligible preschool and school–age children with disabilities be provided a free and appropriate education. The Army expanded EFMP to include all authorized family members with special needs (spouse, child, stepchild or adopted child).
If a Soldier is enrolled in EFMP, the Army reviews the special requirements of the family member and confirms the availability of special medical and/or educational resources and required services at the next duty station, prior to orders being released.
The Army Community Service EFMP managers also work with the Soldier’s family members by providing information and referral, advocacy assistance, referral to support groups, medical providers, housing and respite care services.
Once enrolled, the file should be updated by the Soldier every three years, or when there is a change in the family member’s medical condition or educational needs.
“It can be challenging — caring for a family member with special needs and also having to worry about deployments and permanent changes of station every three years,” Hagood said. “Imagine having to start from scratch seeking special medical care every time you relocate.”
The EFMP works with other military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, and educational, medical and personnel services to families with special needs.
The EFMP strategic communication plan is slated to be implemented in the coming months. Information will be disseminated to all levels of leadership, to include new posters, brochures and campaigns, which will be launched to help raise EFMP education and awareness.
For more information on the ACS EFMP office in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, call 431-3362/civ. 07031-15-3362, or stop by the office in Building 2915 on Panzer Kaserne.
For more information online, visit www.imcom-europe.army.mil/sites/news/toolbox_efmp. The site contains checklists and tools for Soldiers and families regarding family travel and links to other resources.