Progress continues on efforts to improve the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) with the introduction of the Representation for Exceptional Military Families Act.
This bipartisan bill, introduced by Reps. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Elaine Luria (D-Va.), would create an advisory council of EFMP-enrolled families and representatives from the Defense Health Agency, Department of Defense Education Activity, and DoD’s Office of Special Needs. The council would represent the diversity of the disability community and would be charged with making non-statutory, semiannual recommendations related to EFMP to the services and congressional armed services committees.
“At last year’s hearing on EFMP, MOAA highlighted military family frustrations with the program and underscored areas of needed improvement,” said MOAA President and CEO Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, USAF (Ret). “A formal advisory council will not only help ensure these areas are addressed but will also allow DoD and the services to identify emerging gaps as the needs of military families evolve. We thank Congressman Joe Wilson and Congresswoman Elaine Luria for this bill that will be instrumental in driving improvements to EFMP in the years to come.”
MOAA was one of five military family advocates who testified about issues with EFMP and the military health system at a February 2020 House Armed Services Military Personnel subcommittee hearing, including gaps in care that families experience when they PCS to new duty stations. MOAA’s testimony highlighted several recommendations, including a TRICARE policy change to allow families to obtain specialty care referrals at the new location prior to their move to minimize disruptions in care.
Press releases announcing the bill identified Partners in PROMISE -- a group founded by Michelle Norman, who serves as its executive director and also as a member of MOAA's Currently Serving Spouse Advisory Council -- as identifying the need for this reform. Also joining MOAA in support of the legislation are Exceptional Families of the Military, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, and the Military Child Education Coalition.
The co-leads explained in the release why an EFMP advisory council would be instrumental in achieving program improvements.
“Our exceptional military families face unique challenges, and we must ensure there is year-round support for their needs,” Luria said. “Creating this advisory council allows the armed services to hear from experts, the disability community, and military families with lived experience on the best ways to provide high-quality and consistent support.”
Wilson said the act “empowers families with members enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) to engage the military services on how to best support them,” adding that “exceptional military families face unique medical and educational challenges when they deploy or change duty stations. This bill leverages their first-hand experience with the program by creating an advisory council to provide feedback and recommend improvements.”
Please join MOAA in supporting this important legislation by urging your elected officials to co-sponsor the Representation for Exceptional Military Families Act.