Support for Special Needs Families
The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) held a meeting of the Subcommittee on Personnel June 21, 2012. The hearing examined the Department of Defense (DoD) programs and policies to support military families with special needs. Senators and their staff are reviewing DoD’s policies and procedures prior to the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. Representatives from DoD’s Health Affairs, the Office of Community Support for Military Families with Special Needs (OSN), U.S. Office of Personnel Management, American Academy of Pediatrics, Autism Speaks, and military families with special needs provided oral testimony.
The National Military Family Association submitted testimony for the record.
Military families tell our Association the issues they face in caring for a special needs family member, while simultaneously supporting the service of the military member, are complex. Most often, meeting these needs requires the coordination of many military and community entities with the responsibility for that coordination often falling to the already-burdened family member. Military families caring for a special needs family member not only need medical and educational support. They also need assistance from federal, state, and local government and nongovernmental agencies, relocation services, respite care, and family and community support. These services are especially important when these families are also dealing with the deployment of their loved one.
Our Association Supports:
- Ensuring any changes made to the Extended Health Care Option (ECHO) benefit incorporate the needs of families with ALL diagnoses.
- Expanding DoD’s Autism Demonstration coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis therapy to all eligible ECHO-enrolled beneficiaries when therapy is deemed necessary by their physicians.
- Developing a DoD pilot study to identify what additional service(s) special needs families need to improve their quality of life.
- Allowing medically-retired service members and their families to maintain the active duty family TRICARE benefit for a transition period of three years following the date of medical retirement, comparable to the benefit for surviving spouses.
- Allowing already-enrolled family members in ECHO to remain eligible for one year following the service member’s retirement from the military.
- Proposing GAO reports:
- evaluate DoD’s existing case management programs and program coordination for special needs family members
- evaluate how well ECHO coordinates with other benefits: with the regular TRICARE benefit and those offered by other federal, state, and local government agencies and community resources.
- examine the impact of almost 11 years of war on our special needs families.
- examine the impact of ECHO benefits during the activation and deactivation cycle on the Reserve Component family and the special needs family member and if the program has been effective in addressing the needs of this population.
- Ensuring each of the Services maintaining a robust Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP).
Resources for EMFP and special needs families
Until military families are relieved of the weight of war, we hope you will continue to contribute to their wellbeing.
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