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AF program assists special needs family members

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- Being the parent of an 11-year-old boy with high- functioning autism is often a challenging and difficult journey that requires patience and sacrifice said Master Sgt. Virmania Accoo.

“One of the biggest struggles we face as a family is helping my son adjust to a new PCS location and to find the right school that has the special education services our son needs,” said Accoo, the Equal Opportunity office superintendent at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Fortunately, thousands of active-duty members like Accoo, and her husband, Master Sgt. Anthony Accoo, have found support through the Air Force Exceptional Family Member Program which allows Airmen to proceed to assignment locations where suitable medical, educational and other resources are available to treat special needs family members.

“Since we are enrolled in EFMP, it gives us peace of mind knowing that we will not PCS to a location that does not have the required services for our son,” Accoo said. “Shortly after our arrival at Nellis, it was comforting for my husband and me to get a phone call from our EFMP representative asking us if we needed anything. We also enjoy taking part in numerous events where various EFMP families can get together for support and networking.”

EFMP has three components:

The assignment component ensures adequate special needs care is available at the Airman’s projected location. It reassigns Airmen and their families if a new diagnosis cannot be provided through the military treatment facility, the supporting TRICARE network or a combination thereof.

The medical component oversees medical clearances and enrolls the service member in EFMP. Special needs coordinators at base medical treatment facilities screen family members, so service members can obtain the necessary assignment limitation code, “Q,” which identifies them as having a family member with special needs.

The family support component provides referral information, support services, respite care and relocation services, as well as contacts with government resources and civilian agencies. The family support function also assists with school-related issues, finance questions, crisis situations, and provides outreach and educational briefings to installation leadership and the community.

“All three components work together to streamline the process and support the needs of Airmen and their families,” said Saundra Nichols, a EFMP’s community readiness analyst at the Air Force Personnel Center. “All Airman and Family Readiness Centers have a staff member assigned to work with Airmen and their special needs family members. They provide needs assessments and assistance in a multitude of areas.”

Enrollment in EFMP is mandatory for all active-duty Airmen with a family member with special needs. More than 28,000 active-duty Airmen with one or more exceptional family members are enrolled in the program.

EFMP is limited to the Airman’s spouse, child or other person actually residing in the Airman’s household who is dependent on the Airman for financial support and who meets Defense Department enrollment criteria and is a military health care beneficiary.

“After the initial diagnosis, it can be a sad and confusing time for some families,” Accoo said, “but they do not have to shoulder the burden alone.”

AFPC will host two EFMP webcasts on Jan. 12 for spouses and families.

For more information, search “EFMP” on the myPers website. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following these instructions.

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