The Exception Family Member Program (EFMP) is one of those military programs that most people aren’t familiar with, at least until they are thrown into it. It tends to leave a bad taste in many people’s mouths, as all they are hear are the drawbacks and how it can limit where they can be stationed. It is in place for a reason though and is for the wellbeing of the family.
EFMP is a mandatory enrollment program that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, educational, medical, and personnel services to Families with special needs. Service members on active duty enroll in the program when they have a family member (spouse or child) with a physical, emotional, developmental, or intellectual disorder requiring specialized services so their needs can be considered in the military personnel assignment process. The overall goal of EFMP is to help families accompany the service member to the right duty locations, not to exclude them.
I had never even heard of EFMP until we were in the middle of our overseas screening. Apparently it’s mandatory for overseas assignments. I understand why it’s mandatory, but all everyone tells you is the drawbacks to it. Basically, my 5 year old had quite a serious speech impediment. Not what I considered a disability, but the military did.
The main goal of EFMP is to ensure that the military is able to care for the family member at a duty station. This is most especially true when going overseas. The DOD doesn’t want to send a family overseas then find out that they don’t have the doctors available to care for the family member with a disability. The family would then have to be sent back to the states and that’s just expensive and inefficient.
Enrollment in EFMP is more common than one might think. My son was enrolled due to his speech, but you can be enrolled for anything from asthma to more debilitating illnesses. The Army estimates that 10% of active duty soldiers have a family member enrolled in the program. Any child with an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) or an Individual Education Program (IEP) is considered to have special education needs and enrolled. Medical needs that require enrollment include:
– Potentially life-threatening conditions and/or chronic medical/physical conditions requiring follow-up support more than once a year or specialty care
– Current and chronic (duration of 6 months or longer) mental health condition within the last 5 years or the need for frequent mental health services
– Diagnosis of asthma or other respiratory-related diagnosis with chronic recurring wheezing
– Diagnosis of attention deficit disorder (ADD)/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
– Adaptive equipment required
– Assistive technology devices or services required
– Environmental/architectural considerations required
If a situation changes, like in our case my son went through three years of speech therapy overseas, but declared he no longer needed them after that and no longer needed his IEP, the family member will be unenrolled from the program.
EFMP has other benefits for the family. The biggest is respite care. It allows for a rest from caring from your family member, by reimbursing the cost of a caregiver for so many hours a month. It is available to everyone, so we could use it for my son. I want to say it was around 20 hours a month. That’s enough to allow you to get away for an afternoon a week. They also offered a lot of activities and camps for the kids overseas. The staff who put it all together was wonderful and always encouraged siblings to come. I wholeheartedly took advantage.
Most people only see the bad in EFMP. It may prevent you from being stationed certain places, but that is only because it’s what’s best for your family. You’ll still be able to do your job. Worse case, there will be an unaccompanied tour. I’ve known people who were stationed at the same place for years, because of a medical condition of a child. It didn’t limit their career or promotions, but instead kept them near the best doctors for their child.