Less Stress Is Goal for Exceptional Family Member Program
Improvements are coming to the Army’s Exceptional Family Member Program that provides educational and medical help to special needs dependents, said Col. Steve Lewis, deputy director of the Army’s quality of life task force.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on military personnel, Lewis said 43,000 soldiers have special needs family members. He described the Exceptional Family Member Program, established in the late 1970s, as a “safety net of resources and support” for families who face some of the military’s toughest family challenges.
“We must get this right,” said Lewis, who has spent his Army career on social work and family programs and on behavioral and psychological health.
“We have room to improve,” he said, citing specific goals. Better communication is required to assure predictable and quality assistance is available. Efforts are underway to simplify enrollment in the program, and better coordination is needed between key decision-makers, including unit commanders, family support staff, health care providers, educators and assignment managers.
“We are actively working on solutions,” Lewis said. “Relocation is stressful for any family. The stress and toll of every permanent change-of-station is amplified even more for soldiers and family members with special needs.”