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DoD Standardizes Exceptional Family Member Policy

The Department of Defense has taken steps to standardize the Exceptional Family Member policy, also known as EFMP, which had previously been administered individually by the military service branches.

Under the revised policy, EFMP is standardized DoD-wide to provide consistent, reliable support for what the DoD terms “exceptional family members” with special medical needs or other requirements.

What is the Exceptional Family Member Program?

Army.mil describes the program as follows:

“(EFMP) is a mandatory enrollment program that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, educational, medical, and personnel services to Families with special needs.”

As mentioned above, under the old EFMP system, it was up to each branch of the U.S. military to create and implement EFMP policy. Under that system, each branch had its own requirements and guidelines, and standardization across the services was not a feature.

Under the Army’s version of EFMP, “Soldiers on active duty enroll in the program when they have a Family member with a physical, emotional, developmental, or intellectual disorder requiring specialized services so their needs can be considered in the military personnel assignment process.”

EFMP was designed with two goals in mind: to support EFMP families and ensure the military assignment process doesn’t commit EFMP families to military bases that can’t support their special needs.

According to Army.mil, “The overall goal of EFMP is to help Families accompany the Service member to the right duty locations, not to exclude them.”

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DoD Takes Over EFMP

The Defense Department has removed the by-service guidelines in favor of standardized, DoD-wide policies. Doing so eliminates ambiguities and situations where standards varied from one base to another.

It also streamlines some parts of the military assignment process. EFMP families have special considerations to make when it’s time for a PCS move, including whether or not the family will make the move with the service member.

In some cases, a family may choose to have the servicemember serve an unaccompanied tour to a base that has little or no EFMP support instead of relocating the entire family. In such cases, the tour may or may not be shorter, but the separation issues are a burden to military families.

Standardizing the EFMP program may build in greater predictability in terms of what kinds of assignments an EFMP family might expect. But many changes have more to do with support services, respite care, and other needs.

The new DoD-wide policies are expected to evolve over time and shape the military assignment process where applicable.

DoD EFMP policies include:

  • Standardization of identification and enrollment ensures the process is consistent for families across services.  According to a DoD press release, “When a family member is identified as having special medical or education needs, medical services will coordinate the documentation of those needs and the family’s enrollment in the EFMP.”
  • Standardization of identification and enrollment is intended to streamline the program no matter what branch of military service. EFMP is mandatory for active-duty military members who meet enrollment criteria.
  • DoD guidelines to ensure “the family’s special needs are considered during the assignment process.” The DoD requires “each service branch” to use the same criteria for determining the availability of services. Before, standards varied.
  • There is also an “ability for service members to request a second review of assignment decisions. Importantly, service members now learn the reason for declined orders” due to EFMP concerns.
  • EFMP Family Support providers are required to help “enable families to become their own best advocate by helping them identify and connect with resources, expert consultations, education and community support. “
  • DoD requirements for EFMP Family Support providers include completing “at least one annual personal contact with each family assigned to their caseload.”

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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.