DOD Works to Ensure Access for Special Needs Families
By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 2, 2013 Defense Department officials are working to standardize a program designed to help service members get care for family members with chronic health issues or special needs who otherwise might face forgoing an assignment or having to cut short a deployment because of an inability to find such care.
The Exceptional Family Member Program supports military families with special medical and educational needs, and the program is now in the process of being standardized across the force to make it easier for such families as they move from one assignment to another, regardless of location or military affiliation.
“Right now, each service has its own program, so by having one policy and one set of procedures, it’s going to make it much easier for families,” Ed Tyner, DOD’s acting deputy director of community support for families with special needs, told American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.
DOD officials say the goal is to make sure no service member’s career is negatively affected by having a family member who requires special care.
The major benefit of standardization is making sure before a military member receives an assignment that special medical or education services are available in that location, Tyner said. Until now, such services have varied by military branch and location, creating additional hurdles for families requiring special medical care, he explained.
The 2010 Defense Authorization Act required the Defense Department to move toward standardization, Tyner said. “It’s going to be a multiyear project,” he added.
About 120,000 military family members are enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program. More information about it is available on the Military OneSource website.