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 The Office of Special Needs (OSN) is responsible for DoD policy and maintains EFMP&Me on Military One Source.  Each branch is responsible for monitoring and implementing the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) for their service members.  There are specific requirements for EFMP but in general those enrolled have medical conditions that require specialty care and/or special educational needs.  TRICARE benefits apply to all branches of the service.  There are some unique aspects of being an EFMP family serving in the Army.   Exceptional Families of the Military (EFM) 501 c(3) Non-Profit highlights the differences in programming and terminology unique to the Army in this blog.

 

Army EFMP Story:

 

Our EFMP journey began in 2015 when I struggled to have our now middle son diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Kansas.  I kept asking for his pediatric provider at the military treatment facility for an evaluation for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with Early Intervention (EI). 

At the time, I had a 10-month-old baby who wasn’t meeting milestones and he continued to fall behind at each well-child checkup.  At his 15-month check-up, I refused to leave the provider’s office without an EI referral, which I received begrudgingly from his provider.  She kept insisting he would catch up on his milestones, but my son was falling behind each month he wasn’t receiving help. 

The MTF provider told me something along the lines of…”we were moving soon, so we could always bring our concerns up with our next provider.”  

 

Early Intervention (EI) in Kansas did nothing for us. 

 

The evaluators ignored my concerns and since we were moving in a few weeks, I decided to continue my pursuits in NC after we were settled.  I took my son in for his 18-month checkup and, again, refused to leave the provider’s office without an EI referral.  Unlike my son’s previous provider in Kansas, this new provider agreed with me.  My son was behind and needed services. 

This started a full year of wait lists, testing, and therapy appointments before my middle son was finally diagnosed with ASD.  A week after his diagnosis, my oldest son was also diagnosed with ASD.  

 

The emotions of having two kids diagnosed with the same diagnosis, but with completely different needs, were overwhelming. 

 

Having been a practicing child and adolescent therapist before, a lot of people and providers assumed I knew what I was doing, but I needed help on how to help my children.  It’s different when you are a parent sitting on the other side of the desk, so I asked for all of the assistance my kids could receive and we jumped right in.

I look back on those first few years of our journey and I remember feeling very alone and isolated, even when I was sitting in waiting rooms full of other people.  I felt alone even when I talked to providers and therapists every single day. 

The feeling that nobody understands what you are going through can be all-consuming at times and there was one day I overheard another parent asking their therapist for resources and questions. 

I recall thinking to myself, “Keep quiet.  It isn’t your place”  but I knew I could answer all of these parent’s questions, so I turned to her and offered up what I knew about evaluations, therapy clinics, IEPS, etc. 

 

This sparked my advocacy journey.  I didn’t want another parent to feel alone like I had.

 

Fast forward a few years later, I gave birth to our daughter, and little did we know at the time that she would also be enrolled in EFMP for medical reasons.  Now all three of our children are enrolled and, I will be honest, I have done a lot of the footwork when it comes to being enrolled. 

I am the one who researches where we can PCS.  I’m the one who looks at waitlists, future providers, etc in the new areas we move to.  I received little help from the actual EFMP office researching where we can go and what is available. 

I know some people find their offices very helpful, but I haven’t found that to be the case.  I can’t access respite care for any of my kids, despite qualifying.

I am hoping with the new DODI coming out, things will change. The process will be more streamlined for not only the Army but across all branches.  We shall see.             

 

Here is a list of some Army specific things I would like to share with you.  

 

  1. Branch of Service respite care – Currently 25 hours with no sibling care but this will be transferring to the DoD respite program that standardizes respite care.  The transition plan will hopefully be shared soon through the EFMP offices.
  2. All branches of the service EFMP families could qualify for TRICARE ECHO.  For the Army to enroll, paperwork needs to be submitted directly to your region’s ECHO office.
  3. For assignments, you need to go into the Army’s electronic system: E-EFMP.
  4. Army link for EFMP family support services here.  To find your local EFMP office search Military One Source by installation here.
  5. If you need legal assistance with Special Education, you should be able to seek assistance.  Ask your base legal office about the Army Special Education legal point of contact.
  6. The Army regulation 608-75 has a lot of information but expect it to be updated to reflect the new DoDI changes.

 

EFM would like to highlight at the 2020 EFMP hearing before Congress, OSN was charged with standardization.  In June of 2023 a new EFMP DoDI was released outlining some plans for standardization.  

 

 

Meet Jennifer Bittner….

EFMPJennifer is an active-duty Army spouse of 13 years.  She and her husband have three kids, all enrolled in EFMP for medical and educational reasons. 

She is the Executive Director and Lead Researcher for EFM and she is an adjunct psychology instructor part-time.

 

 

 

*For more from EFM, visit their M:M expert Author Page.

 

Author

  • Exceptional Family Members of The Military (EFM)

    EFM is a volunteer-led, 501c(3) non-profit organization specializing in helping DoD families enrolled in DoD's Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). We are EFMP families ourselves and have multiple online support groups with about 7,000 EFMP family members DoD-wide. We provide direct support, support groups, and also work on legislative and policy priorities on behalf of our families. We are part of the Tricare for Kids Coalition and the EFMP coalition, the largest group representing EFMP families. To connect with us ....Website: http://www.ExceptionalMilitaryFam.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ExceptionalFamiliesMilitary LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/exceptional-families-of-the-military Instagram: @EFMVoice /Twitter: @EFMVoice / Youtube: EFMVoices Press Kit: EFM Press Room

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