September 3, 2013
By Mrs. Nikki Maxwell (IMCOM)
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea -- The mission of the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) is to ensure the needs of family members requiring special medical or educational services are considered during the assignment process, and that those needs can be met at their current duty station and next assignment. The program strives to preserve the family unit readiness and resiliency, which is especially crucial when serving overseas.
"When some people are first enrolled into EFMP, they have very mixed emotions," said Zeny Bate, U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan EFMP coordinator. "Some of them get nervous because they think this will reflect badly on them for promotion and assignments, but that is not true."
Bate has managed EFMPs since 2006, in Hawaii and throughout Korea. She said many people aren't as forthcoming on their paperwork because they think it is a negative for them.
"Unfortunately, we find discrepancies in their records and sometimes it is after they have already moved here with their families to Korea," Bate said.
She said depending on their category, EFMP may limit duty stations available to them, but overall, it is in the best interest of the family, not a punishment.
"You don't want to send someone where services aren't available for your family members, so just be honest," Bate said. "EFMP is here to help service members make informed choices regarding what resources certain bases and areas offer for their family's special needs."
There are six EFMP enrollment categories:
• Category I -- For monitoring purposes only
• Category II - Pinpoint to specific geographic locations
• Category III - No overseas assignments
• Category IV - Major medical areas in CONUS
• Category V - Homesteading
• Category VI - Temporary enrollment - Update required in 6-12 months
There are currently 620 families in Area II enrolled in EFMP, and during the height of PCS season, that number increases steadily. Bate said most of them are categorized as 'mild' (Category I or II), because severe cases (Category III and higher) are not authorized to come to Korea. More serious cases may develop while assigned in Korea, and if resources are not available here, they are transferred back to the continental United States.
"We get an influx of service members in the summer, so we remind them to update their enrollment," Bate said. "Many of them think it is a 'one-time thing' to register, but it must be kept current."
The enrollment process involves two key groups: Medical and ACS. The EFMP coordinator at each ACS manages information for their communities and refers families to the Brian Allgood Army Community Hospital (BAACH) on USAG Yongsan for evaluation. The EFMP medical coordinator, Linda Joo, manages the enrollment and care plan from there.
According to Joo, the most common medical conditions leading to EFMP enrollment are: Insulin-dependent diabetes, high risk newborns, recent diagnosis of cancer (less than 5 years ago), sickle cell or other blood disorder, asthma with history of hospitalization, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), extreme Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), chronic behavioral health conditions (such as depression or bi-polar disorder), people requiring adaptive equipment or the use of a wheelchair, and other chronic medical conditions requiring intensive follow-up.
Family members diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, many of them former military, also qualify for enrollment in EFMP. In some cases, the family member may just need an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to help them through the learning process in school.
"Part of our standard service is to offer support groups for our families, particularly parents," said clinical social worker and current Area II EFMP assistant, Kyong Turner, who coordinates support and emotional advocacy for people enrolled in EFMP. "We are here to provide support and care. I am working to create a support group for EFMP families to meet at Hannam Village."
When a condition warranting EFMP enrollment is identified by a doctor, a DD 2792 (medical enrollment) or DD 2792-1 (educational enrollment) are required. Both forms are available at the EFMP offices at ACS and BAACH.
"Once you or your family is enrolled, updates are required every three years," Bate explained. "Soldiers must also check in with us during their in- and out-processing."
She said at least four soldiers and their families were not allowed to PCS on schedule in 2012 because their EFMP status was outdated.
"The process takes a while from here because the paperwork goes to Hawaii for review and approval," Bate said. "If you are divorced from your EFM spouse, or your EFM child is grown (over 21 years old) and no longer your dependant, you must remove them from your record." She urges all service members to ensure their EFMP status is accurate and updated at all times to prevent this from happening to them.
The information provided during enrollment and screening is confidential according to the Army Privacy Program. It is not released to any agency not involved in the assignment process. Also, any information regarding whether the service member is enrolled in the program is not available to promotion or school selection boards.
For Army personnel, the screening process involves completing a DA-5888-R through your serving personnel representative, then bringing the signed form to the EFMP coordinator/special needs advisor at BAACH. Air Force personnel can call 784-5010/3086, and Navy and Marine Corps personnel, call 725-3747 for specific information regarding their individual branches' program.
For questions regarding the process at BAACH, call Linda Joo at DSN 737-1283. For information about Area II EFMP support groups, call Kyong Turner at DSN 738-7790/7505. For information about the EFMP/Special Needs program for the worldwide military community, visit: www.militaryonesource.mil/efmp.