(Photo Credit: Graphic by David Agan) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The Department of Defense Office of Special Needs and Military OneSource launched a new digital tool recently to guide military families with special needs to the specific information and resources they need.

The tool, called EFMP & Me, conveniently connects families anytime and anywhere with tools and information about the Exceptional Family Member Program, according to Amanda Goodson, Fort Rucker Army Community Service EFMP coordinator.

Using the tool, families can learn about support services, preparing for a move or deployment, responding to changes in education or medical needs, and adjusting to new life situations, she said.

“You don’t have to have an account to use EFMP & Me, but having one does help if you want to save your searches and make checklists,” Goodson said, adding that the tool provides phone numbers down to the local level to help Soldiers and families get the information they need to take advantage of all that EFMP has to offer.

“The EFMP process can be a bit confusing because we’re separated – there’s the ACS side of the house, which is me, and then the medical component of the program through Lyster Army Health Clinic,” she said. “Many people don’t realize we’re two separate entities. All enrollments and updates for enrollment, disenrollment, overseas screenings and that sort of stuff, which are the busiest parts of EFMP, go through Lyster.

“Many people can also struggle with how to apply for EFMP, what forms they need to fill out, if they can see a civilian doctor to get the forms done – this application through Military One Source really helps to clear up a lot of that confusion,” Goodson added. “EFMP & Me will tell them the forms they need and provide them the local phone numbers – it kind of walks them through the steps they need to take.”

EFMP exists to help military families with members with special needs, whether they be medical or educational, she said, adding that there two main functions of EFMP.

“One is to coordinate assignments. If a Soldier with a family member with an EFMP-documented special need gets an assignment, that special need is considered during the assignment process,” Goodson said. “If there is a dependent who has asthma and needs certain therapies, or a child with autism – a very common diagnosis in EFMP – they make sure that the resources are available to that family before they make an assignment.

“The second is for EFMP to provide family support services to get them in touch with local resources if they have issues with housing or anything like that,” she said. “We’re here to help them navigate those channels.

“A lot of times people think EFMP is only for children or dependents with medical special needs, but we have a lot of children enrolled on this post with no medical needs associated with autism, but with a lot of educational needs,” she said. “We see parents who are struggling with a school system off post to get the learning resources that their children need, and through this tool on Military OneSource, they can find out what their education rights are and how to advocate for themselves.”

She added that because the medical part of the program is so widely used by the people who need it, many times the ACS side of the program is overlooked.

“We are here to advocate for them, or if they need special equipment we can get them in touch with financial readiness or Army Emergency Relief for access to loans and grants,” Goodson said. “Our goal is to ensure military family members with special needs get the help they need to thrive in Army life.”

EFMP & Me is one part of a broad system of support for military families with special needs. That support starts with EFMP Family Support on installations and includes the Military OneSource network, which provides 24/7 support to service members and families anywhere in the world. Click here to access the EFMP & Me tool. Contact Military OneSource EFMP Resources, Options and Consultations for free, around-the-clock support, tools, assistance and more. Call 800-342-9647 or live chat with a consultant.