Hanscom officials integrate new DOD Exceptional Family Member Program policy

  • Published
  • By David Vergun
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

The Defense Department has issued its own Exceptional Family Member Program policy, a move that ensures consistency across the services for military families with special needs.

Previously, each service set its own processes and guidelines. Policies even differed from installation to installation because there wasn't standardized guidance from the department, said Tomeshia S. Barnes, associate director of DOD's Office of Special Needs.

While DOD officials revise policy to better serve joint service members and their exceptional families, EFMP officials at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, will continue to ensure families receive the support and care they need regardless of their service branch.  

At Hanscom AFB, EFMP is maintained in three parts: medical special needs, family support, and assignment management.

Officials from all three components are poised to support families assigned to Hanscom AFB and throughout New England and New York, in their quest for care.  

"Service members can't focus on the mission when they have concerns about a family member's health or education needs," said Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr., undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. "Enrollment in EFMP provides families access to critical services and support, no matter their service branch or location. And the department plans to continue our work to enhance EFMP to better serve our military families."

Sheri Cote, installation EFMP medical coordinator, oversees Air and Space Force program enrollment, disenrollment, travel screenings and clinical referral management here.

Cote also serves as a liaison for medical EFMP coordinators across sister services and a point of contact for joint families arriving to Hanscom AFB.  

“I work closely here with managers and others to determine how we can best serve our EFMP dependents,” said Cote. “I think this close collaboration is what makes the EFMP at Hanscom AFB unique as we will continue to collaborate to meet the needs of our exceptional families.”

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, families can turn to the family support coordinator for additional outreach.

“I’m available to assist all EFMP families, regardless of their branch of service, as well as our civilian employees who have family members with special needs,” said Shana Wickham, installation EFMP family support coordinator.

Wickham can also connect families to each other; she plans and coordinates events exclusively for EFMP families.

According to Barnes, DOD has enhanced the Exceptional Family Member Program to improve the experience of military families while creating consistency across the EFMP, including assignment coordination.

"This ensures the family's special needs are considered during the assignment process. Enhancements include each service branch using the same criteria for determining the availability of services and the ability for service members to request a second review of assignment decisions. Importantly, service members now learn the reason for declined orders," Barnes said.

Additional information about the program standardization, as well as revisions to respite care, can be found at https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3420860/dod-issues-exceptional-family-member-program policy/#:~:text=The%20Defense%20Department%20has%20issued,needs%2C%22%20said%20Gilbert%20R)

Barnes noted that these changes to the program don't mean there's no more room for future improvements. 

"We serve and work to continually update and enhance the EFMP policy," she said, noting that DOD solicits feedback from families through social media, surveys, and town hall meetings.

For information on EFMP-impacted assignments, contact the Hanscom AFB Military Personnel Flight at 66FSS.FSPD.MILCAREERDEV@us.af.mil.

Additional information about EFMP resources at Hanscom AFB can be found in the program welcome letter.

To join the family support coordinator distribution list for EFMP events, email Shana.Wickham.1@us.af.mil.

“Our team is here to partner with families to take some of the burden off their shoulders when it comes to having a member with special needs in their home,” said Wickham. “Our intent is never to jeopardize a military family’s ability to move locations, but to ensure the exceptional member is receiving the care they need so they too can thrive.”

To provide feedback, visit: https://apps.militaryonesource.mil/MOS/mcfp-prod/f?p=337:15::::RP

Families can access additional family support resources within the Military Family Readiness System. These resources can help families navigate services and gain direct connections to the support they need, Barnes said. The site can be found at: https://www.militaryonesource.mil/parenting/family-life/military-family-readiness-system/

For more information about the program and enrollment, visit: https://www.militaryonesource.mil/special-needs/efmp/

(Editor’s Note: This article has been localized for Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts)