Exceptional Family Member Program supports Families with special needs
May 24, 2010
- "It's important to note that the program isn't broken, we're just making it better"
- The Army's EFMP currently has 52,573 Soldiers enrolled and 69,493 Family members registered
ALEXANDRIA, Va. - According to the National Health Information Center, part of U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, there were 41 National Health Observances last month alone - everything from Asthma and Allergy Awareness to Ultraviolet Awareness - and a total of more than 208 observances each year.
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 complicated system of resources available to them.
"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.
He was referring to the Exceptional Family Member Program, a Department of Defense-mandated program to support Soldiers with Family members with special need. 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 and 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 continued.
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 its 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, enrollment ensures optimum use of permanent change of station money by considering the Army's requirements, the Soldiers 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 works with the Soldiers Family members by providing information and referral and 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, educational and medical and personnel services to Families with special needs.
The EFMP marketing plan is slated to be implemented and information disseminated to all levels of leadership in the coming months to include new posters, brochures and campaigns, which will be launched to help raise EFMP education and awareness
Soldiers who have Family members with special needs should visit their local ACS EFMP office at the garrison for resource and referral assistance and the nearest medical treatment facility for enrollment or to update current EFMP status.
Garrison commanders and unit leaders are encouraged to support and remind Soldiers of the importance of enrollment.