Here’s how the EFMP regulations are changing for military families


(Photo: NY National Guard, Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Lloyd)

By Julie Provost

The Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) is important to service members and their families that have special needs. EFMP could change the course of the service member’s career, create roadblocks for moving forward, and can be seen as an unfair and complicated program that, although designed to help, often doesn’t.

EFMP is a mandatory DoD program to provide comprehensive community support for family members with special needs. This is to help them receive the proper housing, educational, medical, and personnel services that they need at each duty station.

Active duty service members should enroll family members after a diagnosis. Family members will also need to be screened before they can be approved for an overseas move. Although some families have chosen not to do so and send the service member to overseas locations alone, most would rather have the services available to them wherever the military is going to send them.

On April 19th, 2017, the DoD released a new instruction on the Exceptional Family Member Program.

So what is the new instruction?

It updates instructions on how EFMP works with regards to family members going overseas.

From the DoD Instruction, 1315.19:

• Establishes the EFMP and establishes policy, provides guidance, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes procedures for:

   o Identifying a family member with special needs who is eligible for services as defined in this instruction.

   o Coordinating travel at government expense for family members of active duty Service members who are identified with a medical condition that requires coordination with the appropriate medical office of the Service members projected assignment or duty location or those with an early intervention or special education plan that meet the DoD criteria for special education needs.

   o Processing DoD civilian employees who have family members with special needs for an overseas assignment.

   o Providing family support services to military families with special needs.

• Establishes a system of monitoring and assigns oversight responsibilities for the EFMP.

• Authorizes the development of implementing guidance and forms necessary for the operation of the EFMP in accordance with this instruction. DoDI 1315.19, 04/19/2017

• Does not create any rights or remedies in addition to those already otherwise existing in law or regulation, and may not be relied upon by any person, organization, or other entity to allege a denial of such rights or remedies.

You can read the details of the instruction here. This reissues and cancels “Authorizing Special Needs Family Members Travel Overseas at Government Expense,” December 20, 2005, as amended.

What does this mean?

This update means that individual military branches will need to update their own instructions to comply with the DoD instructions. This will help us better understand the changes. There will need to be updates to the Code of Federal Regulations. This, unfortunately, has been delayed because of the regulatory freeze that President Trump put into action on January 20. Hopefully, this too can be resolved sooner rather than later.

Hope for the future

Many special needs families are hoping for change when it comes to the EFMP. They want to be able to PCS easily with their service member. They don’t want to get lost in a sea of paperwork. They want everything to flow smoother than it has been. These recent changes could mean that things will get easier for special needs families in the military.

Service members want to make sure that their families are taken care of. They also want to move in their careers and focus on their jobs. With better EFMP instructions, more service members can do this and more families will be able to receive exactly what they need no matter what their special needs might be.

Julie Provost is an associate editor at Military One Click and a National Guard spouse. She can be reached at julie@militaryoneclick.com.

12 Comments

  1. I wish it was a good program, but it has always been a nightmare for my husband and our family

  2. The truth is that my experience with EFMP has not been good. They have never helped me. Each PCS is more difficult, a process full of stress, literally a nightmare.

  3. This program has NOT been able to help me one bit! It’s regulations are antiquated and makes no exceptions for different family needs.

  4. I personally have had a great experience with EFMP as a cat 4. I need specialty doctors and to special order my medications. We’ve been successful OCONUS and now CONUS. I know my situation is different than most since the emails I receive from my liaison are not referring to me. I just hope they find a way to make it successful for all EFMP needs. No way could I have my current quality life without the EFMP benefits I receive for my situation.

  5. We have chosen not to seek aid from them because of the hassle and possible detrimental effects to our service member’s career. We have, instead, chosen to geo bachelor and I will continue to get the care I can with my specialists. It’s far from ideal, but at least we have a support network with family and friends to get us through.

  6. This program is a joke. We had a horrible HORRIBLE experience that still continues today. I was misdiagnosed and had a new doctor 2 doctors fill out paper work stating i was in no need of any help nor had any problems that came with the misdiagnosis from a NP. Well its been 5 years and on my 3rd base and they still refuse to remove me from the program creating roadblocks for my husband and his career to advance forward.

    My advice do some real hard research on this program from real people talk and ask around before you run and sign yourself up. See what help they truly can offer you and more importantly find out first hand how much this will screw up your spouse career. I honestly wished i knew, i hvae written congress, senators and even gone to IG over this program in hopes of getting out and as far away from it as possible!

    I have written congress, senators, and even contacted IG after a very upsetting meeting I had with dr.matthews in fairbanks and yet

  7. We did not sign ourselves but instead were put in the program unwillingly. This program is the worst; it does not help it only prevents family members from PCSing w their service member and if the service member would like their family to PCS with them they have to put their career on hold and not advance or choose “remote” tours or short tours where family cannot go along w them. We dread PCS season as we know it will be stressful, and most likely put us in a place we do not want to go. PCS’ing is stressful enough to put families through this less than helpful program. Do the EFMP community a favor and actually speak to those of us who are unfortunately in it and then make changes to help families and not make yourselves look good on paper or promotion and implement changes that do absolutely nothing to benefit those in the program you are changing.

  8. This program is nothing but a hindrance. They’ve moved us to locations with ZERO specialists nearby (I’m talking having to drive over 4 hours to get to the nearest one) after all of my previous doctors AND the Clinic Commander had written numerous letters as to why moving to a location without my specialists could be life threatening. We appealed and appealed and appealed. No help whatsoever. Family Advocacy as well as Patient Advocacy were absolutely no help, and literally did nothing. This system is SEVERELY broken. And needs to be revamped in a major way to actually help those who are FORCED to be in it.

  9. This program has done little for me except allow me to stay in a relatively close geographic area to my EFM. Since mine is my mother, she essentially qualifies for no aid whatsoever from the program near as I can tell.

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