There are some unique aspects of being an EFMP family serving in the Air Force. Exceptional Families of the Military (EFM) 501 c(3) Non-Profit highlights the differences in programming and terminology unique to the Air Force in this blog.
Kelly’s #EFMVoice and Story:
Our EFMP story started in 2011. My oldest son was identified as speech-delayed by his daycare. He was three years old and did not speak but used over 200 ASL signs.
We did not think this was unusual and his pediatrician did not seem concerned, but he wasn’t allowed to enter preschool because he didn’t talk and wasn’t toilet trained. We were enrolled in Colorado’s Head Start program, and the therapist working with him identified that it was not just speech delay.
Before we could get further care, we PCS’d to Alabama. It was there where we received the diagnosis of Autism for our oldest son and his younger brother.
We attempted to enroll in EFMP in Alabama, but were denied because I was an active duty Reservist and we were told the program was only for Regular Air Force (RegAF) members.
This was not, and is not, correct according to Air Force Guidance (DAFI 36-3009, Sec 22.214.171.124)
But we were prevented from enrolling for another year.
My youngest son was denied early intervention care on base due to our address at the Family Campground, a policy that has since been remedied at Maxwell AFB, AL.
These early years were dangerous and chaotic, but thankfully we were stationed near an internationally recognized center for autism after we PCS’d to Kansas, which became our lifeline since we were not stationed near family.
Our family has relocated three times since our initial EFMP enrollment in Kansas, where our Reserve and Guard units were co-located with a RegAF installation.
The EFMP office was invaluable to us!
However, subsequent moves saw us assigned to non-collocated Air National Guard bases in states with no RegAF presence or base. These installations do not have EFMP resources such as MTFs (medical treatment facilities) or family support centers or personnel assigned to manage EFMP at the bases.
This was problematic because we had no point of contact for respite care, for TRICARE referrals or support, nor a school liaison. We lived in the largest city in Iowa, with many resources, but could not access those.
We now live in Pennsylvania and get EFMP support from a Regular Army Post, but there remains no Air Force support to any of the state’s EFMP-eligible airmen.
EFMP has not interfered with my husband’s (or my) Air Force careers.
However the lack of EFMP support for the Reserve Component (RC) has led to many issues with our children’s care, our ability to receive supportive services, and for my Airmen’s ability to even enroll in the program.
The tag line I repeat often is: active duty is a status, not a component!
The RC has a large number of active duty members who are denied resources because of geography, lack of education, or blatant refusal to provide those resources.
Here is a list of some Air Force specific things I would like to share with you.
1. Branch of Service respite care – As of 2020, Department of the Air Force (DAF) members were eligible for 40 hours per eligible child per month (including non-EFMP siblings) up to 13 years old. Enrollment is provided to the Family Child Care Coordinator at a RegAF Child & Youth Center, who coordinates applications with DAF Services staff. There is currently no process for RC members non-collocated to access respite care. The most recent phone for Respite is 1-800-443-4828. *This is specific DAF respite care and separate from TRICARE ECHO respite.
2. All branches of the service EFMP families could qualify for TRICARE ECHO. For the DAF to enroll, paperwork needs to be submitted directly to your region’s ECHO office. For Reserve Component (RC) members, you do not have to be enrolled in EFMP to be eligible for ECHO, however members have received conflicting information from TRICARE on this, despite the eligibility being displayed on the ECHO website.
3. RegAF families with qualifying conditions \ enrolled in EFMP should be then “Q” coded to identify them as EFMP families. There is a robust website for all EFMP processes and issues, EFMP Family Vector. In order to PCS, there are Family Member Travel Screening (FMTS) requirements.
4. This process does not apply to the RC because they are not in the assignments system, however RC members can be “Q” coded and identified as EFMP to ease getting resources started following a move, but RC members are not restricted by the FMTS process. There is more information about assignments here.
5. If you need assistance with Special Education, DAF provides special education support, guidance and resources for Families and School Liaisons supporting children with special needs here, which can include legal assistance. As with other resources, these are not available to RC members assigned to non-collocated Guard and Reserve bases.
6. Currently, there are many efforts to improve the EFMP program for RegAF and the newly created ARC ATHENA highlighted EFMP as a major line of effort for the RC due to the issues members encounter with enrollment, access, and knowledge of the program.
7. EFM would like to highlight at the 2020 EFMP hearing before Congress, OSN was charged with standardization. We hope that standardization efforts recognize and adopt best practices across all branches of service.
8. 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.
9. 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.
Meet Kelly and Her Air Force Family!
Kelly is an active duty Air National Guard officer of 21 years & mom of 3 teenagers, twin poodles, and a bearded dragon.
She works full time as an Assistant Professor for the Army War College distance learning program and on drill weekends as the Resilience Officer for the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.
She is the current ARC ATHENA LOE #9: EFMP co-lead and volunteers part time for EFM. Her family, including her dual-military spouse, currently resides in Pennsylvania.
*For more posts from EFM, Check out their Expert Page on Mission:Milspouse.