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News | July 9, 2024

Exceptional Family Members Supported at Naval Hospital Jacksonville

By Kieshia Savage

In 2021, it was documented that a staggering 13.5 percent of the U.S. population had been diagnosed with a disability. With this number growing each year, resources and education are critical to helping these individuals, their families, and others learn and understand their society, relationships and experiences in making the world more accessible and accepting.

Our U.S. Armed Forces recognizes the needs of its active-duty service members and takes pride in the philosophy that the military takes care of its own. The U.S. Army developed the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) in 1979, which was soon after adopted across all branches of the military. The Department of the Navy established the EFMP, September 1987.

The Department of the Navy EFMP is a mandatory program established to ensure that service members' families who are diagnosed with medical, psychological, and special needs are enrolled within the EFMP. However, the Department of the Navy is the only branch of service that utilizes the classification of assignment categories 1 through 6 for the EFMP.

“The EFMP assists with the detailing process, preparing our sailors to be mission-ready, and for their families to be always ready!” said Galya Taborn, Naval Hospital Jacksonville EFMP coordinator. Whether their family remains within the Continental United States, overseas, or in a remote location, we want to make sure the families are constantly linked to services and the resources are there for them,” said Taborn.

This program helps its members by providing the resources and support needed to function as sailors and their potential milestone achieving exceptional family members. “This is a quality-of-life program, and it is the catalyst for service members to receive services like TRICARE ECHO, speech therapy, applied behavior analysis (ABA), respite care, priority housing, and more,” said Taborn. The qualifications for services are dependent upon the category the member is placed in after evaluation.

Benefits of the EFMP also help the Navy/Command by enhancing command readiness, enhancing communication, fostering mission-minded sailors, reducing early returns and hardship discharges, and promoting retention.

Because the program is open to all service members across all branches, all EFMP coordinators on any military installation can help start the process by accepting their application. Once the application is submitted, it is then sent over to the applicable sister branch (of which the member is directly affiliated) and further processed. “Everything starts with an EMFP coordinator. Every command has an assigned EFMP Point of Contact. This may be the best place to start,” said HM3 Christina Baskin, Naval Hospital Jacksonville EFMP assistant coordinator.

There are six categories in which a member can be placed. “Members placed in Category 1 can fill any orders. They are not limited to where they can go, military order wise, but they must be within 2 hours of a treatment facility. Category 2 members are limited to some overseas and remote CONUS orders. Category 3 service members can receive no overseas assignments due to major medical or mental health conditions,” said Baskin.

Baskin added, “Those placed in Category 4 can only be placed in major medical areas within CONUS that are near water. While Category 5 follows the same rule as Cat. 4 and limits the sailor to short orders and three large bases for duty stations. Lastly, Category 6 is for temporary, short-term situations. An example would be a pregnant woman acquiring gestation diabetes. People in this category are re-evaluated and updated within a year.”

After being assigned a category, members are responsible for keeping their files current. “I cannot stress enough how important it is that service members keep their information up-to-date and any changes documented. This is a mandated program for military families, and even though the EFMP does not control the service members' orders, the EFMP is linked to their orders,” said HM1 Anthony Ingraham, Naval Hospital Jacksonville EFMP assistant coordinator.

“If members do not maintain their files and process their paperwork accordingly, there is a domino effect. The service member’s orders may be canceled or placed on hold. The families may not be authorized to accompany the service member to their new duty station. In addition, the resources may not be available to them once they reach that new duty station,” said Ingraham.

The dedicated EFMP team at Naval Hospital Jacksonville prides itself on building supportive relationships. “I think God’s purpose for me is to help and serve. Because of the continuity of our program, we see the more personal side of our patients and hear their stories, which can sometimes humble you. Every day may not be a good day, but I am blessed to be able to say I was able to have a bad one,” said Baskin.

“On a daily basis, we encourage people to stop looking at disabilities and acknowledge the abilities of individuals with special needs,” said Taborn.

For information and support, EFMP coordinators are located at Naval Branch Health Clinic Administrative Building 964A Jacksonville, Room 115. They can also be reached at (904)542-7348.
Don't forget to keep your family's information up-to-date in DEERS.