Shedding Light: What everyone needs to know about the Exceptional Family Member Program

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Buzanowski
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
There are 147 family members at Fairchild enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program, which ensures those with special needs receive appropriate services at their next duty station and support while they are stationed here.

With less than 5 percent of Fairchild active duty families falling under this DoD program, not all active duty members are aware the program exists or what resources are available to them.

One myth about EFMP is that it only applies to medical conditions. In fact, a school-age child with a learning disability that results in the school and parents creating an individual education program is a qualifying factor for EFMP in most cases.

Whether families arrived at Fairchild under the EFMP program or if a family member is diagnosed with a qualifying condition while stationed here, Air Force leaders want to be certain that proper medical care or school services exist at a family's assignment, said Ira Dubin, EFMP coordinator for the 92nd Medical Support Squadron.
The program consists of three parts: EFMP enrollment after a qualifying diagnosis is made; support from the Airman & Family Readiness Center; and being coded correctly in the Air Force Personnel Center's database.

Specifically at Fairchild, the family summit in September 2010 revealed four EFMP-related initiatives that were brought to the Community Action Information Board's attention. The CAIB, chaired by the wing commander, consists of the base helping agencies, commanders, and other key personnel who analyze and address the needs and concerns of the Fairchild community. These concerns were:

1. Limited EFMP access to base
facilities (housing, pool, CDC, etc.)

The 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron is in charge of implementing accessibility standards for base facilities. Federal law requires the DoD to comply with the Architectural Barriers Act (a variation of the Americans with Disabilities Act) to ensure people with physical disabilities are able to easily enter and utilize facilities, said Mr. Lee Paul, programs flight chief, 92nd CES.
The 92nd CES also has housing professionals who work with the privatized on-base housing owner and families to accommodate family members with physical disabilities.
Mr. Paul points out that facility equipment falls out of the 92nd CES's purview. An example of this would be the Child Development Center's playground turf upgrade in 2010 that was managed by the 92nd Force Support Squadron.

2. EFMP process is not clearly
understood by base personnel

Less than 5 percent of military family members at Fairchild are enrolled in EFMP - meaning there's little first-hand knowledge amongst peers.
Primary care doctors at the clinic are responsible for letting Airmen know if their family member's medical condition qualifies for EFMP, said Mr. Dubin. If a qualifying medical condition has been identified, the member visits the beneficiary services office to fill out a DD Form 2792. Then, the member will schedule a follow-up appointment with their family member's primary care manager to fill out their portion of the form. The package is turned into the beneficiary services office for review by the chief of medical services.
The 92nd Medical Group reaches out to inbound EFMP families by providing a letter that highlights resources at the Airman & Family Readiness Center and mental health as well as outlining medical inprocessing requirements. Like all military families, the member will enroll at the Tricare Service Center and Beneficiary Services. Next, family members enrolled in EFMP will need to have an appointment with their new primary care manager to inform them of their status and get medical referrals for local specialists.
Parents need to be aware that EFMP also applies to children who have special educational needs. According to DoD Instruction 1315.19, family members of active duty service members going to an overseas assignment must be identified as having a special education need if they have an individual education plan. Since children with IEPs don't necessarily have a medical condition, it's the parents responsibility to visit the beneficiary services office to get a DD Form 2792, schedule an appointment with their child's PCM and see if their child qualifies for EFMP.

If they do qualify for EFMP, the member takes their paperwork from the clinic to the military personnel section in order to be "Q-coded." The assignment-selection process does not change for active duty members with "Q-coded" families. The only difference is, after assignment selection, a confirmation from the gaining base is needed to verify whether their base or local community can adequately support the family - a process that can take up to 14 days. If a person cannot be accepted for the assignment, Air Force Personnel Center makes another assignment selection, but only gives the new gaining base five days to verify if their family member can be supported. This way, active-duty Airmen are afforded the same opportunities to move as other members who do not have family members enrolled in EFMP.

3. Perceived lack of EFMP
awareness among base leadership

EFMP is a DoD program to ensure military families are well-taken care of by eliminating the potential of moving a family to a location without adequate medical or special needs resources.
With such a minority of Team Fairchild members affected by EFMP, supervisors should be familiar with the program to help advise their Airmen.
The 92nd MDG facilitates enrollment and the continuity of medical care for outbound and inbound families. The 92nd Mission Support Group provides avenues of support and resources, and ensures base facilities are accessible to military families.
All group and squadron commanders are required to attend the CAIB meetings and offer solutions when any issues concerning the Team Fairchild community are identified - including any that might affect people in the EFMP.

4. No EFMP support group

Both the 92nd MDG and the A&FRC have ramped up their education and outreach efforts following last year's summit.
There are inherent challenges to the A&FRC staff because they observe families' privacy rights. The staff receives a list of military members' official email addresses of those enrolled in EFMP; by law, however, they aren't authorized to know the medical condition or special education need, said Steve McMullen, EFMP family support coordinator at the Airman & Family Readiness Center.
Therefore, families who'd like the A&FRC to actively find local resources and helping agencies to support their unique needs will have to disclose that medical information to the A&FRC on their own.
Since last fall the A&FRC staff hosted two events in support of EFMP families, said Ruth Sunde, an A&FRC coordinator. In October they held an EFMP Fair at the Deel Community Center with both Fairchild and Spokane agencies. In November they held Specialized Training of Military Parents offered at the education center. This was a parent-directed project to empower military parents, individuals with disabilities and service providers with knowledge, skills and resources.
Other efforts to have a formal support group were attempted, but only one individual showed at the last meeting, said Mrs. Sunde .
The A&FRC relies primarily on email to inform EFMP families of resources and events. It is also imperative families bring their needs and concerns forward so they can help.
The A&FRC staff publishes a bi-monthly newsletter with EFMP information and school information that is distributed to base housing residents and is available at the A&FRC.