Exceptional Family Member Program assists families with special needs

By Janice Erdlitz, Lyster Army Health Clinic Public Affairs OfficerDecember 18, 2020

To support military Families with special needs, the Army created the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). The Army designed the EFMP to be a comprehensive, coordinated, multi-agency program that provides necessary services to military Families with an Exceptional Family Member.

An Exceptional Family Member (EFM) is a child or adult member of the family who has a physical, emotional, developmental or intellectual disorder and requires special treatment, therapy, edu­cation, training or counseling.

The EFMP works in conjunction with several entities: ACS Installation EFMP Coordinator, Educational and Developmental Intervention Services, primary care providers, and nurse case managers. Most family members do not know they are eligible for enrollment until they receive orders to PCS overseas. Once identified, enrollment for active-duty family members is mandatory per AR 608-75.  Enrolling in EFMP does not limit a Service member’s assignments or opportunities for career advancements. Service members enrolled in EFMP receive equal consideration for assignments and promotions.

How Does EFMP Help Military Families?

EFMP helps families by:

·        Making sure special needs are considered during assignments. This way, you can rest assured that your family member's needs will be considered, so you can better focus on your mission-related responsibilities.

·        Giving families easy access to assistance wherever they are. Families can identify and access the programs and services they need through Family Support Services on installations.

“The EFMP was developed to assist families with special needs. When we receive notification that a Family is eligible to be stationed here, we ensure the appropriate care is available at the frequency required. If the care is not available, we give the service and Family member information on how to be transferred to a new location. If a Family is due to PCS, we will also assist our Families with information on how to stabilize care at their current duty station,” explained Sarah Smith, Lyster EFMP Case Coordinator.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Donald Culp with Army Reserve Careers Division currently stationed at Fort Jackson, recounts his experience with the Lyster Army Health Clinic EFMP while stationed at Fort Rucker.

“When I was in flight school at Fort Rucker, my daughter, Braelyn, was six months old and she started having seizures,” Culp said. “She had to be life-flighted to the children’s hospital in Pensacola. It was here when we would start to understand the gravity of my daughter’s health issues.”

Braelyn was diagnosed with a chromosomal deletion. “While treating her at Lyster Army Health Clinic, her providers suggested that we talk to EFMP. They quickly helped us maximize the benefits of therapy for my daughter,” Culp said.

“EFMP enabled our family to get answers needed to unanswered questions. EFMP provided my daughter with the necessary recurring therapy that she needed to reach various milestones and aid in both her cognitive and motor skills development. I was tied up with the requirements of flight school and it was my wife who was working to get these resources set up. The EFMP was an invaluable program that aided in my daughter’s care and helped to bring necessary balance to our family’s life,” continued Culp.

“During our time at Fort Rucker, my wife and I wouldn’t get much sleep. Braelyn wouldn’t sleep through the night. Any sleep we got was intermittent. My wife was stressed, I was stressed, and sometimes we would argue, which would increase our stress. This was due to being lost and not knowing how or what to do to make Braelyn’s situation better. From the initial stages of finding out about EFMP, we were counseled and advised on the necessary steps needed to get Braelyn the care she needed. When our time at Fort Rucker was up, we PCS’d to South Carolina. The Lyster EFMP coordinator linked us up with the Program Coordinator at Fort Jackson and immediately facilitated the same treatment that Braelyn was getting at Fort Rucker. I was deploying within three weeks of getting home. The coordination prior to arriving at Fort Jackson and getting these resources lined up helped significantly with Braelyn’s care. It was so important to maintain the quality, frequency, and type of care she was getting to ensure she did not regress. EFMP helped facilitate that for us.”

Service members with special needs Family members should talk to their post EFMP coordinator and help get answers to questions they have. “I would recommend anyone who is in the military to research and find out about EFMP. This is an invaluable program. It aided in my daughter’s care and helped to bring necessary balance to our family’s life,” concluded Culp.

Approximately 10% of Army Families have members with special needs, including spouses, children, or dependent parents who require special medical or educational services.

Culp lost his daughter a few months before what would have been her fourth birthday. To honor his daughter, he started the Braelyn Aubrey Foundation which advocates for children with disabilities and special needs. “I want to share her story, honor her memory, advocate for the necessary programs that helped her,” explained Culp.

CW3 Donald Culp spends time with his Family before a deployment. Culp was stationed at Fort Rucker when his family first utilized the Exceptional Family Member Program for his daughter, Braelyn.
CW3 Donald Culp spends time with his Family before a deployment. Culp was stationed at Fort Rucker when his family first utilized the Exceptional Family Member Program for his daughter, Braelyn. (Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

EFMP was created in the early 1980s, regulated by AR 608-75 and DoDI 1315.19. Benefits to enrolling in EFMP, include knowing the required care for your special needs Family member will be available at future gaining installations and enrolling in the Extended Care Healthcare Option (ECHO) program which opens up additional avenues of assistance.

Col. Karen Holtzclaw, deputy commander for nursing and patient services at Lyster Army Health Clinic concluded, “It is shared testimonials like CW3 Culp that warms my heart to know the EFMP services made positive differences our Soldiers’ lives. The military honors our service men, women, and their families by providing a valuable tool like EFMP to assists the child or adult requiring individualized care for special medical or educational needs. We take great pride in being a part of the more than 128, 500 family members of all ages currently enrolled in the exceptional member program across all military services.”

Visit https://lyster.tricare.mil/Getting-Care/EFMP to learn more about EFMP at Lyster and all the benefits it has to offer. Additional resources on EFMP can be found at https://efmp.amedd.army.mil/ .