JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) — Being the parent of a child with asthma, cancer, autism or any other life-threatening or chronic condition is often a difficult journey that requires patience and sacrifice.
Fortunately, thousands of active-duty members have found support through the Air Force Exceptional Family Member Program, which allows Airmen to proceed to assignment locations where suitable medical, educational and other resources are available to treat family members with special needs.
In an effort to communicate directly with Airmen and families, the Air Force hosted an EFMP summit at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, Aug. 28-29 to address concerns, help identify solutions and share resources for exceptional family members from each major command. The summit was also broadcast live on the EFMP-Assignments Facebook page.
An Exceptional Family Member is a family member enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System who has a diagnosed physical, intellectual, or emotional-psychological condition that requires ongoing specialized medical or educational services.
“Our EFMP professionals communicated directly with families to answer questions and create awareness of the network of resources available to them,” said Kimberly Schuler, AFPC’s policy chief for Humanitarian, EFMP and Expedited Transfers assignments. “The Air Force continues to listen to feedback from EFMP families so it can evolve the program to meet present and future needs.”
The summit included discussions on legal assistance, TRICARE, respite care, resources for adults/caregivers, special needs initiatives, as well as new information on the three EFMP components that work collectively for Airmen and their families.
The assignment component ensures adequate special needs care is available at the Airman’s projected accompanied location. It also reassigns Airmen and their families if care cannot be provided for a new diagnosis through the medical treatment facility, the supporting TRICARE network or a combination thereof.
The medical component oversees medical clearances and enrolls the service member in EFMP. Special needs coordinators at base medical treatment facilities screen family members so service members can obtain the necessary assignment limitation code, “Q,” which identifies them as having a family member with special needs.
The family support component provides referral information, support services, respite care and relocation services, as well as contacts with government resources and civilian agencies. The family support function also assists with school-related issues, finance questions, crisis situations, and provides outreach and educational briefings to installation leadership and the community. Lastly, family support personnel help connect families with each part of the EFMP.
“EFMP combines the expertise of the assignments, medical and family support professionals,” Schuler said. “All three components work together to effectively care for the concerns of special needs families.”
One of the summit’s goals was to gauge the impact of recommendations from last year’s EFMP rapid improvement event and look for additional opportunities to improve the program going forward. As a result of the 2017 event, more than 40 full-time EFMP employees were added Air Force-wide, processes were improved for the more timely transfer of military health records and training was added for customers using TRICARE Online.
“There was a lot of good information sharing this year,” Schuler said, “so we have some positive things to build on for the coming months and the next summit.”
A few of the key points taken from the 2018 event included the need to enhance career planning guidance for new EFMP enrollees, creating more awareness for EFMP social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube and implementing improvements to the new EFMP enrollee orientation course, slated to debut in January 2019.
Senior Master Sgt. Nathan Yeaworth, a cyber systems manager at RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom, has been enrolled in EFMP for about four years and has three family members with educational challenges.
“I took a lot of notes from the summit and plan to share this information with our junior Airmen at our squadron calls,” Yeaworth said. “Although some program improvements still need to be made, this was a good meeting going forward. It included a good mix of enlisted members, officers and civilians who provided good feedback.”
EFMP enrollment has doubled since 2009. More than 31,000 active-duty enlisted members and officers with one or more exceptional family members are enrolled in the program.
Enrollment in EFMP is mandatory for all active-duty Airmen who have a family member with special needs. The program is limited to the Airman’s spouse, child or other person actually residing in the Airman’s household who is dependent on the Airman for financial support and meets Department of Defense enrollment criteria as a military health care beneficiary.
All Airman and Family Readiness Centers have a staff member assigned to help enhance the quality of life of Airmen and their special needs family members as well as members not officially enrolled in the program.
“For new EFMP families, it can be a confusing time,” Yeaworth said, “but they do not have to shoulder the burden alone.”
The EFMP broadcasts can be found on AFPC’s YouTube channel at www.YouTube.com/AFPCPA. For more information, go to the EFMP-Assignments Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EFMPAssignments/?tn-str=k*F or visit www.afpc.af.mil/Benefits-and-Entitlements/Exceptional-Family-Member-Program/.