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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Exceptional Family Member Program

The Air Force Times reports on the Exceptional Family Member Program:

EFMP, though, has major shortcomings, according to an Air Force inspector general report. The investigation, prompted by a complaint on behalf of 16 families, found installations do not have a full-time designated special-needs coordinator, installations are not providing access to special education services at new duty stations and the Air Force lags behind the other services in its support of families with special-needs children.

“The current level of support to these families is not consistent with the Air Force’s No. 2 priority: Develop Airmen and Take Care of Their Families,” concluded the investigating officer, a major whose name was redacted in public copies.

In response to the report, the Air Force said it intends to add full-time coordinators at 35 bases stateside who will help link families with information on medical, educational and social services, according to a service official who helps oversee the program. The plan, set to be put in motion in fiscal 2012, still needs the approval of Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.

“We hear the people, and we’re going in a direction their needs dictate,” said Linda Stephens-Jones, assistant deputy for family programs.

Lawmakers, too, are paying more attention to special-needs families. The House version of the fiscal 2011 defense bill calls for the Government Accountability Office to monitor the military’s handling of special-needs families.

The oversight came in the form of an amendment introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who is married to a retired Navy officer and has a son with Down syndrome.

“When a person joins the military, it’s not just the individual who joins,” said Rodgers, who is co-chair of the Congressional Military Family Caucus. “It’s also their family.”