When you’re in the military, navigating the ins and outs of PCSing can be hard enough; but if your family has special medical or educational needs, it can sometimes seem like you’re choosing between your spouse’s career and your child’s health and wellness. That’s where the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) comes in.
Like most things in life, the EFMP isn’t perfect, but it is designed to offer support in helping families identify and access programs and services they need — and many military families have found the EFMP to be crucial in making sure that the needs of family members with special medical or educational needs are met.
Join us as we dive further into what the EFMP is, how to enroll, what the benefits of enrolling are, and how Partners in PROMISE supports and advocates for military families with special needs.
What Is the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP)?
The Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) is a DoD-mandated enrollment program that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide support, housing, educational, medical, and personnel services to families with special needs. EFMPs exist in numerous military communities and can vary in what they are able to provide, or how they are able to provide it, in each unique location.
Active-duty servicemembers enroll in the program when they have a family member with a physical, emotional, developmental, or intellectual disorder requiring specialized services. The three components of every EFMP are:
- Identification and enrollment of a family member with special medical or education needs;
- Assignment coordination to determine the availability of services at the projected duty station
- To offer support to help families identify and access programs and services.
EFMP programs are offered by four of the six military branches. The Coast Guard does not have EFMP but members of this branch are required to register in the Coast Guard Special Needs Program. Most of the services have their own particular EFMP program: Army Exceptional Family Member Program, Navy Exceptional Family Member Program, Marine Corps Exceptional Family Member Program, and Air Force Exceptional Family Member Program.
How Do I Enroll in the EFMP?
Servicemembers are required to enroll in the EFMP if they have a spouse, child, or other dependent family member in need of ongoing medical or educational services. To enroll, servicemembers should complete and submit:
- DD Form 2792, the Family Member Medical Summary, and/or
- DD Form 2792-1, the Family Member Special Education/Early Intervention Summary to their installation EFMP office.
What Are the Benefits of Enrolling in the EFMP?
Enrollment in the Exceptional Family Member Program comes with many benefits for military families, such as consideration during the location assignment process and access to assistance to help your family navigate the medical and educational system.
Support includes, but is not limited to:
- Information and referral for military and community services
- Education and outreach
- Local school and early intervention services information
- Warm handoffs to the Exceptional Family Member Program at the next location
- Non-clinical case management, including individualized services plans
Plus, establishing enrollment early on will assure that you have seamless access to resources during a PCS and at your new duty station.
Is There Any Reason Why I Shouldn’t Enroll My Child in the EFMP?
Contrary to information you may have heard surrounding the EFMP, enrolling your child in EFMP will not prevent you from being stationed OCONUS or negatively impact your servicemembers career progression or ability to promote.
In fact, the “Analysis of the Impact of Exceptional Family Member Program Enrollment on Individual Marine Career Progression and Promotion” found that not only were enrolled servicemembers staying in the service longer, participants of the study (both officer and enlisted) achieved a grade that was higher than or equal to the most likely grade of their matched counterparts.
Enrolling your child in EFMP is a personal decision so, as always, only you and your partner can decide what’s right for your family.
Partners in PROMISE
Founded in 2020, Partners in PROMISE is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that serves as a representative voice for our Exceptional Military Family Members (EFMP). Their P.R.O.M.I.S.E. is to Protect the Rights Of Military children In Special Education and they do so by elevating the voices of military family members to educate and advise military service organizations, the DoD, and public officials.
Each year, Partners in PROMISE releases its Military Special Education Survey to learn more about the families they support. This data is used to inform Partners in PROMISE programs and support recommendations. In fact, some of the 2021 NDAA changes included many of Partners in PROMISE’s recommendations based on findings from their 2019 and 2020 surveys.
If you’d like to take this year’s survey, it will be open September 13 through October 8, 2021 and will focus on timelines experienced by military families including diagnosis, evaluation and the receipt of medical and special education services. Other areas of focus include the utilization and efficiency of available DOD programming on the 2021 NDAA updates.
Here’s a little more information on Partners in PROMISE and their annual survey:
Are you a family with an exceptional family member? Have you ever enrolled for the EFMP? What was your personal experience with the program? Let’s discuss in the comments below!