A Brief Overview
- This is part of a two-part series on this topic of the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). This article continues from Part 1: What Makes a Military Family Exceptional?
- EFMP consists of three parts that work together for identification and enrollment, assignment coordination, and family support.
- An off-site centralized office within the branch of service determines eligibility for EFMP and level of need.
- Enrollment should be updated when there is new medical or educational information, and at least every three years.
- EFMP enrollment ensures the family member’s needs are considered in the assignment process, although the military requirements take priority.
- EFMP Family Support provides nonmedical case management, information, resources, and support.
- Beginning in 2023, eligible families may access 20-32 hours of EFMP respite care per month through their branch of service, depending on level of need and availability of services.
- Get the most from EFMP by contacting the installation’s Family Support office for information, resources, and support.
The Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) is a mandatory program for all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces that helps military dependents with special medical or educational needs. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Space Force each have an Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). The Coast Guard, which operates under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security, has a similar program called the Special Needs Program (SNP).
EFMP is made up of three parts that work together to provide:
- Identification and Enrollment
- Assignment Coordination
- Family Support
Identification and Enrollment
This is the entry point for EFMP. When the service member turns in the enrollment forms, they are sent for processing to an off-site centralized office within the branch that will determine eligibility and the level of need. The decisions are made by medical document reviewers who do not meet or speak with the dependents. Upon completion, the servicemember will receive a letter of verification from the EFMP program for their branch of service.
The same office will determine eligibility for TRICARE’s Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) supplemental medical insurance plan.
EFMP enrollment should be updated anytime the family member has new medical or educational information, and at least every three years.
Once a family member is enrolled in the program, personnel and medical departments coordinate future duty assignments with consideration of the family member’s medical or educational needs. Although the family member’s needs are considered in the assignment process, military requirements take priority for assignment decisions. Orders that accommodate the family member’s needs may include:
- Accompanied assignment only to locations that have services and resources to support the family member’s medical or educational needs.
- Unaccompanied assignment, in which the servicemember relocates to the new duty station without the dependents, for a shorter duration than standard duty rotations.
If a service member disagrees with the availability or lack of availability of services at their next duty station, Department of Defense (DoD) Instruction 1315.19 (issued June 2023) provides them up to 14 calendar days from the date of the original assignment notification to request a second review and submit updated medical or educational information. A service being “available” does not mean the family won’t encounter a waiting list for these services, providers who are no longer taking clients or patients, or other interruptions in services.
Families enrolled in EFMP should ensure their paperwork is complete and current before assignment and permanent change of station (PCS) to a new duty station. Get ahead of assignment coordination and allow time for updates to be processed by updating the enrollment forms before the servicemember’s window opens for selecting orders.
Enrollment in EFMP does not prevent the service member from deploying or taking an assignment on unaccompanied orders.
This is the department that directly serves families with nonmedical case management and support, including:
- Information about local military and community programs, services, and supports.
- Partnering with the School Liaison to provide information about early intervention services, special education, and school-based supports for students with disabilities.
- Assistance with navigating DoD medical, educational, and counseling systems.
- Local programs and activities for the benefit of families enrolled in EFMP, such as support groups, classes, and regional or installation events.
- Warm handoffs to EFMP programs and School Liaisons at the next duty station.
Beginning in 2023, EFMP family support providers are required to personally contact each family assigned to their caseload and every family using the respective service’s respite care program at least once annually.
Find your EFMP enrollment or family support. In the drop-down menu for “Program or service”, select “EFMP Family Support” or “EFMP Enrollment”. Then, select your location from the drop-down menu labeled “Location based on”.
Eligibility requirements for EFMP respite care differ by branch of service and availability of services varies by location. The 2023 DoD Instruction 1315.19 standardized the respite care hours to 20-32 hours per month, across all branches of service, depending upon level of need of the eligible family member. It also extended coverage to include adult dependents and added the opportunity for eligible families to request additional services based on exceptional circumstances.
EFMP respite care is not an entitlement program, but a benefit available only to those who qualify. However, families who are ineligible for EFMP respite care may be able to access community-based respite care programs. EFMP respite care is also separate from TRICARE’s ECHO respite and ECHO Home Health Care (EHHC) respite programs, both with their own eligibility requirements.
Getting the most benefit from EFMP
Families enrolled in EFMP can get the most benefit from EFMP by contacting their installation’s Family Support office to:
- Connect with the Family Support office at the new duty station to facilitate services and supports prior to a PCS
- Locate resources at the state and local levels, such as civilian respite programs and disability-specific events
- Identify state and federal benefits for which the enrolled family member may be eligible, such as Medicaid waivers, Vocational Rehabilitation, and scholarships for individuals with disabilities
The DoD developed the EFMP Family Support Feedback Tool as a method for families who have accessed their installation’s EFMP Family Support to provide feedback about their experiences. This information applies to the DoD’s Office of Special Needs’ policy development and program improvements for all branches of services.
Download the EFMP Enrollment Checklist.
Learn More about EFMP
This is part of a two-part series on this topic of the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). This article continues from Part 1: What Makes a Military Family Exceptional?
STOMP (Specialized Training of Military Parents) provides information and resources to military families, individuals with disabilities, and both military and civilian professionals serving military families enrolled in EFMP. Register for upcoming STOMP workshops and webinars to learn more about the lifespan of benefits available to military families under federal law and military programs.
Military OneSource is an official DoD website and a information hub for all aspects of military life. EFMP & Me, a companion website managed by Military OneSource, organizes hands-on tools, federal and state information, military and civilian services and resources, and related supports and programs in one place.
- Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), Part 1: What Makes a Military Family Exceptional
- Benefits of the School Liaison Program from Military OneSource
- Department of Defense (DoD) Instruction 1315.19, Exceptional Family Member Program (June 2023)
- Learn about how School Liaisons support military children from Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3)