Support for Special-Needs Families During a Move

Robert L. Gordon III, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy). DoD official photo.

Written by Robert L. Gordon III, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy)

As we all know, moving is integral part of military life.  Sometimes when it seems that we’re finally settling in to our new home and community, it’s time to break out the boxes again, say goodbye to friends, and start anew.  While frequent moves are just one of the aspects of military life that have helped us learn how to be resilient, moving can still be a frantic and emotion-filled time, and especially so for a military family with special needs.

We as a military community understand this, and there are numerous resources that can help our special needs families.  However, the first and most important step to getting help is enrolling in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP).

If you are a family with a special needs family member, the EFMP is the best way to connect to resources tailored for your particular family need.  If moving, the program can connect you with your new housing office and a relocation specialist who can help with such things as how to ship medical equipment without it counting against your household goods weight allowance and how to find accessible housing that accommodates your loved one’s needs, to name only a few.

The next important step is to go to MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.  This trusted, DoD-sponsored website represents an enormous collection of information about your new duty station and can provide contact information for the people and offices there that can help you navigate around your new installation and your new community.

We all know that a successful move requires an extensive to-do list. 

Plan My Move is that list!  It creates a calendar that takes you through the day-to-day process of moving, which includes those unique moving tasks of a family with special needs.  Plan My Move is fully customizable, so you can move or change tasks that need to be done and even create your own.  Plan My Move can create travel checklists, arrival checklists, and lists of documents to hand-carry and important phone numbers.  Finally, Plan My Move is accessible on-line or you can print your personal calendar and each of these checklists to have a hard copy with you as you travel.

Perhaps the best resource I can offer for moving families with a special needs member is the advice and fellowship of other special needs families.  We’ve set up a discussion for military families to share their advice, experiences and words of encouragement to other families with special needs preparing for a move.  If you’ve got tips, please join the discussion.  If you’ve got questions as we all do when moving, please ask.  I’m always heartened by the way families take care of each other.

Other Important Resources

For school needs of your special needs family member, the DoD Education Activity (DODEA) Special Education web page also covers relocating, course descriptions and the eligibility criteria for special education services within the DoD school system.  You’ll find contacts for the Educational and Developmental Intervention Services which provide early intervention and related services to all eligible DoD dependents at overseas locations.

MilitaryHOMEFRONT’s Special Needs/EFMP section includes our DoD Special Needs Parent Toolkit. The toolkit navigates you through the maze of medical and special education services, community support, benefits and entitlements.  Download it or order a free hard copy by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.

Military HOMEFRONT’s Special Needs/EFMP section offers the recently revised Special Care Organizational Record – SCOR – for Children with Special Health Care Needs.  SCOR tracks and organizes a child’s information to make it easier for another person to take over the role as caregiver during a parent’s absence.  With the SCOR, simply hand a provider your child’s historical medical, school and other information instead repeating it over and over again!

The new SCOR for Adults is specifically designed as an organizing tool for families with an adult member with special needs—their needs are unique and very different from a child’s.

Military OneSource provides families with 60-minute consultations up to 12 times a year with a Special Needs Specialty Consultant.  Consultants will speak with you about your needs and provide information and make referrals on a wide range of issues, such as housing, special education, TRICARE and more. Call (800) 342-9647.

The bottom line is that the Department of Defense and your Military Service understand the challenges of moving with a family member with special needs, and help is available.  I encourage you to take advantage of the many programs and services described above.  Our goal is to make the move to your new duty station as seamless as possible and to quickly and efficiently connect you and your family to formal services and support that you will need.


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  • Anonymous

    Great information on EFMP EDIS from Mr. Gordon, Military Community and Family Policy
    Office of the Secretary of Defense

  • BK

    EFMP is a well-intentioned program, but unfortunately, its structure renders it completely useless for many families with special needs.  We have been in the Army for thirteen years, and enrolled in EFMP for nearly nine, and I can honestly say that, in all four moves during that time period, EFMP did absolutely NOTHING to help us, and in two cases, severely hindered our reassignment process.  We would get approved to move to locations that, we found out (through our own research), did not have necessary services available.  We would get denied assignment to locations that did have services, which we verified through direct contact with Tricare-approved providers.  We updated paperwork, only to have it “lost in the system” for weeks or months, jeopardizing our orders.  In my experience, we would be better off going it alone.  I only wish that were an option.

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