By Trecia A. Wilson (USAG Grafenwoehr)July 6, 2010
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- "Sorry, you aren't going anywhere until your EFMP status is updated," is a distressing thing for a Soldier to hear as he or she is preparing to PCS.
All Soldiers are at risk of hearing that statement if at least one of their dependents, adult or child, is enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program, and that enrollment has expired or is not up-to-date.
"Army-wide, there are about 20,000 Soldiers with expired or not up-to-date EFMP enrollments," said Jay Velis, Exceptional Family Member Program manager at U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr.
According to Installation Management Command's website, an exceptional family member is a dependent of any age with a disorder that requires special treatment, therapy, education, training or counseling. Enrollment is mandatory and must be updated every three years, or when there are significant changes in the dependent's condition.
"In Europe, most Soldiers we currently see that have a family member enrolled in EFMP have an expired or not up-to-date EFMP," said Master Sgt. Matthew Bryant, Joint Multinational Training Command's senior career counselor.
A person's EFMP enrollment may expire for several reasons. Sometimes Soldiers get divorced and forget to disenroll their spouse; or a child outgrows a condition like asthma and the parents forget the child was ever enrolled; or a previously enrolled child has grown up and moved away.
However, even though a dependent leaves or no longer needs services, the EFMP enrollment remains and can become a red flag on the Soldier's file.
In any of the above situations, Soldiers will need to show the EFMP nurse official documentation of the new status. For example, divorce decree, child custody order or a birth certificate showing the child has matured past the age of allowable Army medical coverage. If a child no longer needs specialized services, the specialist who determined that status will need to provide an official statement.
"Soldiers who haven't updated their EFMP enrollment could slow down or even halt their PCS process," said Velis.
"When a Soldier wants to re-enlist and choose a new duty station to move to, it takes us about three days to get that Soldier an answer," said Bryant. "With a Soldier who has a family member enrolled in EFMP it can take up to one to three months because Soldiers who have an EFMP enrollment must be processed for re-enlistment manually."
Soldiers without EFMP dependents can be sent virtually anywhere without considering the availability of specialized services at the new location, and usually know within three days. For Soldiers with EFMP dependents, it can be more complicated.
The process for re-enlistment can take two to three weeks or one to three months, depending on whether their EFMP dependent's file is up-to-date and if the requested new location offers services specific to their dependent's needs. The verification process must also pass through several offices and if requirements aren't met, the process starts over.
Another common misconception is that a Soldier serving overseas does not have to worry about dependents in the EFMP when preparing to PCS back to the states.
"That is not entirely true," said Bryant. "There have been occasions when a stateside PCS location was denied because the needs of the EFMP dependent could not be met at that location."
Bryant suggests to Soldiers whose Date Eligible to Return from Overseas is within one year begin out-processing preparations immediately. He also recommends making a list of and reviewing all medical, dental and educational needs for the entire family, choosing a new post, but having a couple back-up options, too.
"There are many floating parts in a Soldier's re-enlistment or PCS process," said Bryant. "It is important not to underestimate the amount of time it will take to make all those parts come together."
For more information regarding the Exceptional Family Member Program, or to ensure your family member's records are up-to-date, contact your EFMP manager at the Army Community Service office or the EFMP nurse at the health clinic.
Additional information on the program can be found online at www.imcom-europe.army.mil/sites/news/toolbox_EFMP.asp.