JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --
A permanent change of station can be a stressful event for military families. For Airmen who have family members with special needs, a PCS can be even more stressful due to concerns about whether proper medical care will be available. Fortunately, the 62nd Medical Squadron’s Exceptional Family Member Program is here to help families through the process.
EFMP is a Department of Defense program with the goal of ensuring that, prior to relocating to a new assignment, military family members’ special needs can be met at their new assignment. Enrollment in EFMP is mandatory for family members who have a life-threatening or chronic condition requiring follow-up support more than once a year or for those receiving specialty care.
When an Airman with an exceptional family member receives an assignment for a PCS, or when any Airman with dependents receives an overseas assignment, the Airman must coordinate with the EFMP office to initiate a relocation clearance process.
“The clearance process can take anywhere from three weeks to three months, dependent upon the gaining base, complication of family member needs and whether the documentation needs to be reviewed by the major command,” said Lois Fisher, 62nd MDS EFMP special needs coordinator.
Because of that, Fisher said, Airmen need to contact the EFMP Family Member Relocation Clearance Coordinator as soon as they receive their assignment notification in order for the process to begin.
The reason the process can be a long one is because members may have to make follow-up medical appointments in order to get proper paperwork filled out by their medical provider or specialists, a face-to-face screening with the EFMP special needs coordinator may need to take place, and a Facility Determination Inquiry may need to occur at the gaining military treatment facility, said Fisher. The FDI is a review of all the paperwork submitted to the gaining MTF and can take up to 14 days before a travel recommendation is made.
If family member travel is recommended, the Airman will receive a travel clearance and can then proceed with the assignment process. If travel is not recommended however, then there are a few options available for the member.
“The sponsor can ask for the assignment to be canceled,” said Fisher. “Additionally, the sponsor can pursue a reassignment, or the Air Force Personnel Center may pursue the reassignment through a ‘pinpoint’ process, putting out the family circumstances to other bases that may be able to provide the necessary care for the family members.”
Fisher added that AFPC may determine that the sponsor will still be assigned to the gaining base and the family member would not receive command sponsorship at the gaining location.
One additional option would be for the member to appeal the non-recommendation.
“An appeal requires new and substantial information other than what has already been submitted on the previous forms,” said Fisher. “So perhaps the original document said a patient needed to be followed by a psychiatrist for a mental condition in order to get medication renewals. New information may be that the provider who completed that form would add his professional opinion that a psychiatric nurse practitioner would also be able to prescribe the medications for that family member.”
Fisher added that there are common misconceptions about the EFMP process as a whole. One is that if a family member is enrolled in EFMP then the sponsor will not be able to PCS. But Fisher said that is not in fact the case.
“The sponsor will be able to PCS, but possibly not to the desired or assigned base,” said Fisher. “AFPC takes into consideration the training of the sponsor and where the sponsor can best be utilized.”
Fisher offered a friendly reminder for anyone who may be going through a travel clearance screening.
“Remember,” she said, “it’s always about the mission of the Air Force.”
For more information about EFMP, visit http://www.airforcemedicine.af.mil/EFMP/, or call the FMRCC at 253-982-3350.