Taking a Deeper Look At EFMP in Atsugi
Story by MC3 Jacob Smith, Graphics Courtesy of EFMP, PAO, NAF Atsugi
Supporting a family member with exceptional medical, educational or dental needs can weigh heavily on a service member’s mind and cause exceptional stress, ultimately lowering the individual’s as well as the command’s readiness. Thankfully, all branches of the U.S. military have implemented the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) to support service members and their dependents in order to help mitigate these issues.
Founded in September 1978, EFMP is a mandatory enrollment program that assists in identifying military family members’ special needs. This aids in assigning the service member to a location that will provide proper resources for the family member while still allowing service members to perform their duties.
“As a liaison, I provide information and training to the families, as well as connecting them to the resources and services they require for their special needs family member in our local community,” said Melanie Brassfield, the education specialist at Fleet and Family Support Center. “We here at Fleet and Family have a role in teaching the community about the programs available to service members and their families.”
Brassfield began running the EFMP program on Naval Air Facility Atsugi in September, 2018. She works as a liaison to more than 60 families enrolled in the program, the Education and Development Intervention Service (EDIS) personnel at the schools and the case workers in Yokosuka. She also handles training the points of contact for each EFMP command representative.
“My mission while in this position is to reduce the misconceptions about the program,” said Brassfield. “The myth out there is that this will affect the service member’s career because they will not be able to take a posting. The truth is, it all depends on the category of the family member.”
There are a total of six categories in the EFMP. The first category is for monitoring purposes only and allows assignment in most locations, while category five meets the criteria for the Homestead Program, which provides an opportunity to remain in a particular geographic location, which supports both operational and shore rotations. Category six is a temporary status, where the family member needs a stable environment and continual treatment for between six months and a year, for situations like high-risk pregnancy.
“EFMP may get a bad rap but it is actually a wonderful benefit of service members and their families,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Jose Sabangan, former patient administrator and the point of contact for EFMP at Atsugi’s Branch Health Clinic. “It was created with the service member’s career and family in mind. The Navy wants you to be able to take your family with you to your assignments but they also want your family member to be taken care of.
Sometimes you may end up having to choose to take an unaccompanied billet, but they do try their best give you both.”
Sabangan was involved in EFMP for a year and a half before recently being relieved by Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Brittany Buhmann. As the Patient Administrator, Sabangan was responsible for the proper handling of patient paperwork and scheduling appointments with the health care providers.
“The hardest part of this job was always breaking the news to the families when the news wasn’t so great,” said Sabangan. “Thankfully, with how well patients are screened now, we don’t usually have to do that. At the end of the day, I was just happy to be able to help my patients, even if it was just through pushing paperwork.”
Brassfield said another misconception that many people have is optional to enroll in EFMP after the need to have been identified by a medical professional, but in fact, it is absolutely mandatory. Failing to enroll is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and could be dangerous to family member if they were to be sent to a command that could not support their needs.
“Try to imagine the pressure and stress put on service members in the past when they were just sent to wherever their branch needed them to go without consideration of their families’ needs,” said Brassfield. “Sailors don’t need to be afraid of this program, they just need to get past the stigma and see that this program truly is made to help them.”
For more information about EFMP, schedule an appointment with Brassfield at Fleet and Family Support Center in building 949, or come to the bi-monthly class they hold, which can be found on the Fleet and Family calendar.