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Inspector General: DoD Making “Limited Progress” On Exceptional Family Member Program

The Pentagon has not yet fully implemented enhancements to its Exceptional Family Member Program, and that’s a problem for military families with special needs who may be left without support or medical care depending on where they are assigned.

A report by the DoD Office of the Inspector General faults the DoD for not updating the program as originally directed in 2021.

Exceptional Family Member Program Changes

In July 2023, we reported that the Department of Defense was taking steps to standardize the Exceptional Family Member Program, also known as EFMP. Prior to the announcement, the individual branches of the military were responsible for administering their own versions of the program.

EFMP is part of the Department of Defense Office of Special Needs. This office “is committed to helping families with special needs thrive in military life,” according to the DoD.

The changes in EFMP are meant to standardize the program across all branches of service and eliminate ambiguities in how EFMP is administered in any single location. But the program is, at press time, still not fully standardized across all branches of military service.

Congress required EFMP to be standardized as part of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Military Times reports, “The standardization requirement stemmed from years of complaints by families of inconsistencies in the program and the availability of medical treatment and special education at various bases.”

EFMP Enhancements Delayed

On August 8, 2023, Military Times reported, “The office responsible for developing and implementing the program’s policies — the Office of Special Needs — has failed to collect detailed data, such as installation-specific information, needed for families and assignments personnel to make informed decisions” related to EFMP concerns.

The problem?

The Exceptional Family Member Program is not voluntary. It’s a requirement for military families that include a dependent spouse or child with special medical or developmental needs.

Mandatory signups service-wide, combined with a lack of standardization, and you can see why the DoD announced the move to streamline EFMP in the first place.

One of the most important services EFMP offers is to help military families find military duty stations where they can get the right medical services. Some families risk getting far less than they need without a standardized approach to this process.

Related: Pentagon Standardizes Exceptional Family Member Program

Inspector General EFMP Audit Report

An August 3 2023, press release by the Department of Defense acknowledges a report by the Inspector General which notes the following:

“The audit report released today highlights that, while there has been limited progress, there is much work to be done by the Department to ensure the standardization of the Exceptional Family Member Program across the Services, as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2021.”

The Inspector General found that the DoD to date has not taken “sufficient actions to improve oversight of the EFMP and did not fully implement previous Government Accountability Office recommendations to develop performance metrics.”

The DoD Office of Inspector General has recommended a general EFMP policy update as well as development of “a DoD information technology system to maintain readily available and reliable data to support oversight of the EFMP.” The Inspector General gave the Defense Department 30 days from the audit to respond.

Related: Military Spouse and Dependent Benefits Guide

About the author

Editor-in-Chief | + posts

Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.