The Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) is a mandatory* Department of Defense program that helps military dependents with special needs. The Coast Guard, which operates under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security has a similar program called the Special Needs Program, or SNP.
* EFMP is mandatory, primarily so a family member’s needs may be considered during the duty assignment process. However, some families do not enroll because they believe the program requirements are not worth the benefits to them, or they perceive the program as limiting the service member’s duty assignment options, and thus his or her career.
EFMP Family Support staff, along with an installation’s School Liaison, are the primary points of contact for parent centers for holding installation-based trainings, access to meet with families on installations, and insider information about installation support programs and family engagement.
Note: although the purpose of the EFMP and the SNP are the same across all branches of service, there are some differences with names, procedures, and forms. There are also differences by installation, such as the availability of respite care providers and funding.
- Identification and enrollment is a collaborative effort among military-connected health care providers and EFMP staff:
- Example: a child is identified as having a particular disability by the family’s regular medical provider who refers the family to the EFMP enrollment office.
duty assignment coordination: once a family member is enrolled in the
program, future duty assignments for the military service member are considered
in the light of that family member’s medical or educational needs.
- For example, if a child is enrolled in EFMP due to the need for speech and occupational therapy, the service member’s projected duty station will be screened to see if these services are available.
Notes: although the family member’s needs are considered in the assignment process, military requirements take priority for assignment decisions and there are no guarantees that services and supports are available at a new duty location.
The EFMP assignment process does not consider the availability of educational instruction, supports and services under an IEP as part of the assignment process, only military benefits and programs such as medical coverage, respite care, ABA therapy, mental health care and the like. It is also clear that a service being “available” does not mean the family won’t encounter a waiting list for these services, or providers who are no longer taking clients or patients.
- Family Support: this is
the EFMP function which directly serves EFMP families and is the most common
point of contact for parent centers. Staff are civilians who work for the
military. Contact information for EFMP Family Support is available on our Interactive Maps.
- Provides non-medical case management
- Assists with navigating the Department of Defense medical, transport, legal, and counseling systems.
- Provides information about local civilian services and supports
- May arrange support groups, classes, and family events for the benefit of EFMP families assigned to their installation.
- On some installations, EFMP Family Support may also provide access and financial support for respite care.
Who is eligible for EFMP?
Active duty personnel with family members who have special health* or educational needs may be eligible. National Guard and Reserve personnel with family members who have special health or educational needs may be eligible during the time period when the service member is called for active federal duty. For EFMP ROC (below), National Guard and Reserve family members may have a consultation without their service member being called to active duty.
*requiring specialized care beyond the level of their general practitioner
Getting enrolled in EFMP:
Enrollment typically begins with the family member’s health care provider. This can be either the primary care manager or a specialty care provider that is military-connected. For additional information regarding the EFMP, families can contact EFMP coordinators, EFMP liaisons, EFMP system navigators, or family resources coordinators depending on their branch of service. Coast Guard parents may contact a Family Special Needs Case Management Officer.
Getting the most benefit from EFMP
It’s important for families to contact the current installation’s EFMP Family Support Office in these situations:
- To update the child’s EFMP file every three (3) years
- The parent has new medical or educational information about their child
- The service member is assigned to a new duty station (PCS) to make certain that paperwork on the Exceptional Family Member is up-to-date and to facilitate services and supports through the new duty station’s EFMP Family Support office.
- Transportation needs for their child or youth enrolled in EFMP
- Issues with military services and supports, or expected services and supports are not available
- Finding resources at the state and local levels (including parent centers!)
- Accessing state and federal benefits for which the Exceptional Family Member may be eligible
EFMP online and by phone for families:
EFMP Navigation Checklist Tool EFMP & ME -“EFMP & Me is here to help you effectively navigate through the Department of Defense’s vast network of services and support for families with special needs.”
EFMP ROC program
EFMP Resources, Options and Consultations” (EFMP ROC) is a new program that provides military families who have members with special health or educational needs with enhanced services. Special needs consultants are available by appointment, via phone or video at no cost, and there is no limit to the number of appointments families can make.
- Supplements installation-based EFMP Family Support
- Highly useful for remote families such as National Guard and Reserve. The service member does not need to be called to active duty for these families to use EFMP ROC.
- Extended-hour appointments add convenience
- Can be used for cross-referrals to EFMP Family Support when a family plans a move to a new installation
Families can ask for assistance with:
- Exploring education options
- Special Education-will refer families to Parent Training and Information Centers (new!)
- Healthcare and TRICARE (military) programs for individuals with disabilities
- -including local medical care and services—with the support of a dedicated TRICARE specialist
- Federal and state benefits for individuals with disabilities
- Connecting to military and other child care, support groups, in-home care, and deployment support options
- Special needs trusts and estate planning
- Referrals to legal help for disability issues
Military families can connect with EFMP-ROC through Military OneSource or by calling 1-800-342-9647. Appointments can be made 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Consultants have extended (evening) hours for appointments.