By Tiffany Shedd
One of the first things I had to do as a brand new Army wife was get paperwork (quickly) for an overseas assignment. My husband had been assigned to Fort Wainwright, AK, which while technically is still the US; it really is like a foreign country.
In the process of getting my new military id card, enrolling in DEERS, and applying for my government passport, I also had to clear the EFMP office. I had not a clue what this was. Once I figured out that EFMP stood for Exceptional Family Member Program, I became a bit nervous. It was vaguely explained to me that it had to do with family members and medical issues. If those medical issues were severe enough, they may not allow me to travel with my brand new husband.
I got a little worried. I had recently had a fluke result pop up on a female related test and I also have suffered from migraines from a very young age. Needless to say, neither of these issues was of any importance when I went in for my quick appointment. The nice lady tried not to laugh as she assured me that these were not the issues that they were worried about. She signed my paperwork and sent me on my way. I didn’t think about EFMP again until six years later when my son’s PCM told me we needed to enroll in the program.
Hopefully, your first experience with EFMP is not as you’re trying to get yourself ready to undertake the mammoth challenge of an overseas PCS move. If it is though, try to get into your local EFMP office pronto.
If your military spouse already has orders and they are for the continental US, then you should be ok. If those orders are for overseas and your family member(s) were not already enrolled in EFMP, their needs were not taken into consideration when those orders were cut and the duty station may be unsuitable for your family member(s) needs.
Alert your family member’s PCM that your family has come up on orders and you need to get the EFMP process going as quickly as possible. On smaller bases, this may not happen as quickly as you’d like. We currently are assigned to a base where the EFMP program has no dedicated staff, just a nurse who does EFMP part time, which means that getting into the program takes some time. Even on larger bases, the process can take a while, so be sure to start it sooner rather than later.
If your orders are approaching quickly, you may not be able to travel with your military spouse to the duty station. You will have to stay behind until you entire family medically clears. I know that sounds like some worst nightmare type stuff, but stay calm and vigilant. You need to stay on top of your paperwork and in contact with your PCM and the EFMP liaison.
You are your family member’s biggest ally and advocate.
Once you’re enrolled in EFMP, or if you’re already in the EFMP program, you still have to be medically cleared before you are allowed to make the move overseas. If you were enrolled in EFMP prior to PCS orders being cut, your family’s medical needs have already been taken into consideration. So, if your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), that is something that can be accommodated at your new duty station. If you had type 2 diabetes, they have made sure that there are specialists either on that base or within a short distance that can accommodate your health needs.
Unfortunately, there is no quick way to explain how you become medically cleared as it depends on which branch of service your family is a part. Fortunately, there are online resources that will give you a good overview of what to expect out of the process. I personally like to know what to expect before I even talk to someone, so I tend to Google things before doing anything else.
Here is a link for a Quick Reference Guide that discusses the medical clearing process for each specific branch of service: https://www.hanscomservices.com/Downloads/EFMP_Quick_Reference_Guide_May2013.pdf
There is also some very useful information about the EFMP program in this guide. It’s a good place to start if you’re just coming into the program or if you’re a seasoned spouse who is moving OCONUS for the first time as part of the EFMP. Another good place to look for information is with your PCM or the local EFMP office. They will know exactly what paperwork you will need and help you with getting any appointments that may be necessary.
I know that this can be intimidating and stressful, but once you’re done with the process, think about the adventure you’re about to embark on. This may be the first time you’ve travelled abroad or the first time you’ve been to this specific place. Make the most of this new place and opportunity.
I know it can seem overwhelming, but most moves seem that way while you’re in the process of doing it. Take it one step at a time. This is a big step, so once it’s done, you’re ready to tackle the next challenge that pops up. Good luck and bon voyage, my EFMP friends.