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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story is the second in a four-part series exploring some of the ways Army Community Service (ACS) supports personnel throughout the PCS process and assignment durations while stationed in the Benelux.]

USAG BENELUX – BRUNSSUM, Netherlands – As service members and civilians make permanent changes of station, or PCSs, across the globe for new assignments, Families with loved ones who have special needs, also known as an Exceptional Family Member or EFM, require additional assistance to make the transition successful.

This is where the Army’s Exceptional Family Member Program, or EFMP, comes in to help.

“I am a Navy combat veteran, father of three and previously supported the Marine Corp in several aspects, one of them being the EFMP manager for Camp Lejeune, North Carolina,” said Daryl Witt, lite center manager for Brussels ACS and EFMP manager for the Benelux. “I have several years’ experience working EFMP for the Marine Corp side – there are several similarities. With the Army I’ve found the scale is much larger. Things run a little differently.”

EFMP is a comprehensive, coordinated, multi-agency program that provides community support, housing, medical, educational, and personnel services to military Families with an EFM. At ACS, EFMP includes the non-clinical case management, information and referral process, advocating for Families and helping navigate systems for care coordination.

Witt explained within EFMP there are three main functioning lanes that overlap – identification and enrollment, assignments coordination and Family support – the latter being the focus of his role.

“When the PCS process begins, assignment coordination starts (the EFMP process),” he said. “This is where the losing installation works with the Family to complete and update DD2792-1 paperwork. There are people that determine if the duty station can support the needs of the Family listed in that paperwork. For the Army, it’s MEDCOM (U.S. Army Medical Command) who takes a look at the paperwork, and it’s very detailed .

“I play a coordination role in that,” Witt continued. “I don’t make any determination. I facilitate paperwork to the right spot, helping coordinate care. We need to make sure they (Families) are connected to services. We do a warm hand-off where the losing installation shares my information with the Family and, with the Family’s permission, shares their information with me.

“In the PCS process we don’t want progress to be inhibited (for the EFM) and to stress the Family,” Witt continued. “Working with them (Families) ahead of time, we make sure they’re connected with the services that have been identified as soon as they land here and help connect them with the provider. … We do as much as we can ahead of time.”

Witt explained many military Families are self-sufficient, relying on themselves to work through things on their own, and some may have trouble asking for help. A family may use a search engine and find there’s a pediatrician within 50 miles, but understanding whether the provider speaks English, accepts Tricare, has available appointments, can provide the right services and are taking new patients, is key.

“That’s my role,” said Witt, “to say ‘Hey, it’s okay to reach out.’”

Witt’s education, experience and background align well to his role.

“When I got out I became a teacher,” he said. “I taught math, special education and gifted program, while in the military I was a medic. So I’ve been around medicine, special education. My whole life has been around people who have special needs. It’s always been in that human services role. It’s something I’m really comfortable with. I enjoy working with Families, and it comes naturally to me.”

Furthermore, Witt said being able to speak with doctors and nurses in their own jargon helps. Special education experts have their own terms too, add in the military and navigating this complex combination, can be overwhelming.

Questions might arise such as: ‘What’s an IEP (Individual Education plan)?’ ‘What is a 504 (form for physical accommodations)?’ ‘Does my spouse need to come to this meeting?’ ‘Why is the principal here?’ ‘Why are there five people on that side of the table and I am all by myself?’

“Those situations can be daunting,” said Witt. “I enjoy taking things that are complicated and making it simple for Families, taking stress off of them and being a support where I can.”

Witt explained one of the core functions of an EFMP manager is to administer an EFMP Needs Assessment/Service Plan. This is a standardized form used across all branches of military service and walks the Family through current needs, strengths and desired outcomes. Witt works with Families of the EFM, prioritizing goals, stabilizing situations and setting plans for follow up and progress.

“When you have four or five issues going on with your Family and then you’re in a foreign country, that can be overwhelming,” said Witt. “Many times these Families are already advocating for themselves, they are researching and finding what they need, but having someone like a sounding board to help make that plan and focus efforts, that’s a benefit.”

Witt further explained at the end of the form is the Interservice Transfer Summary Tool section. This is crucial in situations where you have a different Service Member stationed at an Army installation or vice versa, Army personnel stationed elsewhere; it fosters clear communication across all service branches regardless of variations in care systems and technologies.

“This is particularly important for the Benelux because we do have folks from several different branches supporting NATO or at SHAPE and it’s great to be able to help a Navy, Air Force, Army or Marine Corp Family, whenever needed.”

Advocating for Families and navigating services does not stop once the PCS process concludes.

“Some concerns do need to start with a primary care manager or someone on the clinical side of the house but it can start with a conversation at ACS where we encourage folks to set an appointment with their primary care physician and let’s write down your list of concerns to help the Family communicate at their next appointment,” Witt said. “We do that with the schools as well. Many times it’s helping Families reach out to the school and advocate for them, advise who to speak to or how to express what they’re seeing at home in a way that either resonates with the medical or educational provider – that is something I do frequently.”

Witt shared EFM Families are not alone. At time of publication EFMP across the Benelux supports over 230 cases, is able to provide services in person and virtually throughout the area of responsibility, and any one of the ACS locations can start the local contact connecting Families into the EFMP process.

“If Families get connected to one service, even if it’s not the exact one, they (the ACS team) would connect them to what’s needed. We want the Benelux community to know they do not have to do things on their own. There are people here who care and want to help!”

For more information on EFMP

- Visit EFMP resources on the USAG Benelux website at: https://home.army.mil/benelux/index.php/about/Garrison/directorate-human-resources/army-community-service/exceptional-family-member-program

For more PCS support

- Visit USAG Benelux's newcomer in-processing page at https://home.army.mil/benelux/index.php/my-fort/processing/newcomers

- Visit Military OneSource at https://www.militaryonesource.mil/branch-of-service/army/

- Learn more about Army PCS Moving Assistance at https://www.militaryonesource.mil/moving-housing/moving/moving-and-deployment/army-pcs-moving-support/

Learn more about Army Community Services

ACS maximizes technology and resources, adapts to unique installation requirements, eliminates duplication in service delivery, and measures service effectiveness.

ACS program and services include Army Emergency Relief, Emergency Placement Care, Employment and Volunteer Opportunities, Exceptional Family Member Program, Family Advocacy Program, Financial Readiness Program, Relocation Readiness Program, Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention (SHARP), Survivor Outreach Services (SOS), Information & Referral Program, Army Family Action Plan, Army Family Team Building and Military & Family Life Consultants.

Stay connected to offerings, how-to-videos and so much more, consider following ACS on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ACSBenelux.

Did You Know?

July 25, 1965, Gen. Harold K. Johnson, Army Chief of Staff, dispatched a letter to all commanders announcing the approval and establishment of ACS. By 1967, the majority of continental U.S. installations had initiated ACS centers, and by 1969, 155 ACS centers and points of contact were established Army wide.

From the initiation of ACS, and throughout its history, its volunteers (primarily Army spouses) have ensured the success and support of ACS programs. One Army spouse who made many notable contributions to ACS was Joanne Patton, wife of Gen. George S. Patton.