For the first time, the Defense Department will offer those enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program, also called EFMP, an opportunity to provide detailed input about their experiences. Feedback will be used to improve how the program provides services to participating families.
"It's pretty exciting because it's the first official DOD survey about EFMP," said Jennifer Wong, a program analyst with the Defense Department's Office of Special Needs. "It's a phenomenal chance for families who are enrolled in the program to be heard directly at the DOD policy level."
About 105,000 active-duty service members are part of the EFMP, which provides support to families with children or adult dependents who have special medical or educational needs.
Every service member with a family member enrolled in EFMP is eligible to take the survey, Wong said. Service members will receive an announcement e-mail containing a unique ticket number. Service members with a ticket number will be directed to go to www.dodsurveys.mil and enter the ticket number to take the survey. It's expected that those emails will be sent out on or after November 17, 2022.
According to Wong, EFMP ensures that, among other things, special needs are taken into consideration when a military family is moved to a new duty assignment.
"When a family PCSs to the next location, they may be looking for particular medical services, specialists, therapies, behavioral health — those types of services — and we want to make sure that when they do PCS, they'll have continuity of care," Wong said.
Wong said the results of the survey will be used by the department to both improve the program and standardize delivery to all families across the services.
"Within the Office of Special Needs, we are committed to improving support for military families with special medical and/or educational needs," Wong said. "A vital part of that ... is hearing from families who are enrolled in the program. It's very important to hear from the families who are in the program so we have feedback that's representative of the families we serve, and it's based off their real-life experiences and their interactions with the program. That's why it's a great opportunity for families who are enrolled to participate in the survey."
The EFMP is made up of three components: Identification and enrollment of family members into the program, which is completed by the medical commands; an assignments component that ensures the medical and/or education needs of the family member are taken into consideration with an upcoming PCS, which is completed by the medical and personnel commands; and a family support component, which families can reach out to for information regarding resources and non-clinical case management.
"The survey is going to ask about all three components and what a family's experience or interaction has been ... so we can see all those different touch points for a family, what's working or what can be improved upon," Wong said.
Every family enrolled in the EFMP will be able to take the survey and share their own family experiences with the program. While Wong said invitations will be sent out to service members only, she recommends that the survey — which should take about 15 minutes to complete — be done with all adult service and family members' involvement.
"We encourage the service member to maybe sit down, have a conversation with other adult family members, and perhaps take the survey together ... to provide that full perspective of EFMP and also services outside the program such as medical or educational services," Wong said.
Also of note, Wong said, is that while the department expects to invite every EFMP family to participate in the survey, it is possible that recently enrolled members might not get an invitation. It's also possible that if a military service doesn't have an accurate email address for a service member, then that service member might not get an invitation. Those EFMP families will still be able to participate in the survey, however, and are encouraged to do so, Wong said.
"We want maximum participation," she said. "This is a great opportunity to give your feedback straight to DOD — straight to your service level leadership."
For service members with family members enrolled in the EFMP who don't get an invitation and ticket number to participate in the survey, they can go to www.dodsurveys.mil, click the "Click Here" button below the "Don't have a ticket number?" message, and then enter their DOD ID number and date of birth to take the survey.
For more information on support for families with special needs, visit the Military OneSource webpage on special needs.