By Emily Klinkenborg | U.S. Army Medical Department Activity-Fort Carson Public Affairs Office
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Permanent Change of Station (PCS) season comes around in large waves twice a year, but for the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) staff, their job is year-round.
The EFMP ensures active-duty Family members with physical, mental, emotional or developmental needs have access to specialized resources and services at their next duty location, prior to the PCS move.
There are two EFMP offices located on Fort Carson with two very different areas of responsibility.
The EFMP office at the Army Community Service (ACS) building provides Families with resources needed to be successful, while the EFMP office at Evans Army Community Hospital (EACH) is responsible for medically screening Family members and enrolling them into the program, if eligible.
“(The EFMP) ensures that Soldiers, and more importantly their Family members, are not stationed in an area where they can’t get the services they need,” said Susan LeBlanc, EACH EFMP nurse administrator.
LeBlanc and Health System Specialist Nakeisha Daniel Espinosa provide services to nearly 3,000 Family members at EACH as a two-person shop.
Normally, there is a vast amount of troop movement from January to June for the summer PCS cycle with another small push of troops near the end of the year for the winter PCS cycle.
This year, however, the EACH EFMP staff are challenged with assisting Families scheduled to PCS this year, as well as Families who were held back from their PCS move last year because of COVID-19.
Not every Family will be eligible for the EFMP, but every Family must complete the medical screening with the EACH EFMP office.
According to LeBlanc, 12% of screenings result in Families having an exceptional Family member without having anticipated it, so it’s crucial for service members and their Families to keep their medical history current.
PCS season can already be a stressful time for some Families, so being proactive in the EFMP screening process and staying up to date with Family medical history can help reduce some of the stress.
“I tell all my Families to try to start their updating process around the two-year mark at their new location,” said Espinosa. “I also advise that if there are any changes in the medical history for any reasons at all, it needs to be updated.”
The screening process can be a lengthy process, regardless of if the Family would be eligible for EFMP or not. And since some Soldiers receive their orders 30 days before they are expected to PCS with their Families, the EACH EFMP office recommends service members complete their medical screening prior to receiving their assignment orders.
Soldiers with Family members have a specific section of their orders annotating whether the EFMP screening has been completed. If service members wait until they receive their assignment orders, then they would be required to amend the orders, causing a delay in the PCS move and unnecessary stress on themselves and their Families, especially if they are slotted for a position overseas.
While the EFMP tracks movement to all duty stations, it focuses heavily on Families who are moving outside the continental U.S., to include Alaska and Hawaii, because the chances of Families not having access to the appropriate resources drastically increases when having to move overseas.
To begin the screening process, Family members must submit a complete packet to the EACH EFMP office. The packet includes DA Form 5888 with block 8 completed by Military Personnel Division (MPD) or Family travel personnel, DA Form 7246 completed by the military spouse, and copies of current physicals for all Family members.
If Families are expected to go to the European theater, then the sponsor must read, sign and date a European memorandum as well.
Families are highly encouraged to return the forms as one complete packet for the EACH EFMP staff to better assist them.
The EACH EFMP office will then review the completed packets and medical records before coordinating with the providers to enroll Family members if their records dictate.
Families can also be unenrolled from the EFMP if they have had consecutive years without medication or therapy depending on their condition.
The gaining installation ultimately makes the decision to approve or deny the Family’s PCS move. The EACH EFMP office is just a liaison for the gaining installation.
Service members are then directed to the ACS EFMP office after the EACH EFMP office completes the screening and enrollment process.
“I always advise my Families to communicate with ACS EFMP because they have a lot of resources,” said Espinosa. “If they have any questions, they can always reach out to us.”
The ACS EFMP has three personnel staffed to assist with assignment coordination, compassionate-related requests and to help review packets before submission.
Families can access the forms at https://efmp.amedd.army.mil and email the completed forms to the EACH EFMP office at email@example.com.
“When you move to a new area, you’ll know that those medical resources or behavioral health resources are going to be available because that has already been vetted for you,” said LeBlanc. “If you have a (Family member) who is in need of special care, (the EFMP) is a way to eliminate that stress.