‘Exceptional’ program aids special sailors
Military, family members can get assistance at Pax River
What is a sailor, soldier, airman or Marine to do, when duty calls, and yet so do the cries of children or spouses who require special care and resources?
More than 1.3 million men and women currently serve in the U.S. military, according to Defense Department personnel data. At least one in every 10 of those men and women are touched by special needs experienced by themselves or family members. And yet, the mission continues.
The Department of Defense Exceptional Family Member Program collectively serves more than 132,500 military family members with special needs, according to a February
2018 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The program was established in response to the unique challenges faced by military families with special medical and educational needs.
“If family members aren’t taken care of, then sailors cannot focus on the mission,” said Michelle Adams, counseling and advocacy supervisor at the Fleet and Family Support Center at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. “The whole point of the program is that we don’t want anyone to feel alone.”
Some of the burdens commonly shouldered by affected members of the armed forces include frequent moves, accessibility of appropriate medical care; proper educational resources, availability of necessary therapies, social stigma among co-workers, perceived lack of advancement opportunities and overwhelming out-of-pocket expenses.
Sailors stationed at NAS Pax River have a team of qualified professionals to help ease their burdens, during times of transition and crisis.
EFMP case liaisons are located throughout the fleet to provide non-medical information and referrals, individualized service plans, and case management from one duty station to the next, according to the Navy personnel command website.
Giavana DiGiorno, case liaison for Pax River, serves as a central point of contact that helps match service members from all branches of the military with local resources. For transitioning fam- ily members, DiGiorno describes her services as a “listening ear,” or “helping hand.”
DiGiorno added, “I will spend my day tirelessly searching available resources for you so that you can continue working and providing for your family members.”
The program is open to service or family members who have been diagnosed with a wide range of ongoing medical conditions, including asthma, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, attention disorders, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, clinical depression, mental health issues, or even extreme dental conditions.
Many sailors have been automatically enrolled in the program as a result of an overnight admission to a hospital following an emergency room visit, or post-operative care resulting from an unexpected surgery. Enrollment is mandatory and required immediately upon the identification of a special medical, dental, mental health, developmental or educational need.
There is no hospital at NAS Pax River. However, within the Naval District Washington there are several major medical hubs. The accessibility of specialized treatment facilities offers additional medical, educational and therapeutic resources, so that despite a potential change of duty stations, family members can maintain continuity of care.
The Exceptional Family Member Program aims to streamline the transition process, and ensure that military members receive the full support needed to be able to focus on their mission, knowing that their families are supported as well.