Although there is no Department of Defense (DoD) policy that directs the military Services to establish an Exceptional Family Member Program, the DoD does provide guidance, assigns responsibilities and prescribes procedures for authorizing family member travel at government expense for all active duty service members who meet the established DoD criteria for identifying a family member with special needs.
Primary considerations in assigning a service member are the service member’s current qualifications and ability to fill a valid requirement. Other factors such as availability, volunteer status, time on station and other criteria are secondary. For additional information about each Service’s Exceptional Family Member Program, please see this page.
While EFMP has kept a number of families from being in locations that cannot support their loved ones, there are some realities to the program with which families and service members must contend. Since the EFMP impacts where families are placed, once enrolled in EFMP, the service member may be limited in terms of which assignments are offered to them. Although EFMP is designed not to impede a Service Member’s career, some families find that enrollment in EFMP can affect career progression, as the service member is not always able to take assignments that would keep their career moving forward. To avoid this issue, the service member could go on an assignment separately, but in some branches, the family would then only be eligible for one basic allowance for housing. Ultimately, families may appeal decisions if they feel their loved one would be supported in locations they have otherwise been denied.
Informing Your Command
Having a child with autism impacts the family, parental roles, and the amount of time one or both parents will need to dedicate toward the child’s development and treatment regimen. It is important, therefore, to inform supervisors and leaders in your command about your child’s diagnosis and its implications with respect to your duty assignment and responsibilities. If you anticipate needing to take time off or modify your schedule, be sure to make your request as early as possible to allow the best opportunity for your command to react and adjust schedules as necessary.
Click here to download tips and guidance for informing your command of your child’s autism diagnosis.