JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
An orientation session for Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph newcomers whose family members have special needs will launch a year filled with workshops and special activities for them through the location’s Exceptional Family Member Program.
During the session, set for noon-1:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at the Military & Family Readiness Center, 555 F St. West, attendees will learn about the roles of the program’s three arms – family support, assignments and medical – and how those components can help their families.
The orientation follows the mandatory newcomers’ briefing for all newly assigned military and civilian personnel, said Mike Bell, JBSA-Randolph EFMP coordinator.
“I brief them on the family support side of the EFMP,” he said. “It lets our members see who we are and where we’re at. My role is to provide them with the resources and referrals they need.”
The assignments component, which considers the medical and educational needs of the family during the assignment process, is also covered during the session.
Yulonda Gilbert, EFMP special needs coordinator, addresses the program’s medical component.
“I talk about criteria for enrollment in the EFMP and how Q-codes impact the member, then transition into how to disenroll and have the Q-code removed,” she said, referring to the Air Force assignment limitation code that indicates an active-duty member has at least one dependent eligible for the program. “I then discuss the options each member has when their travel is not recommended and I wrap up with a question-and-answer period.”
Gilbert also discusses what happens when an active-duty member whose family is part of the EFMP receives a permanent change of station to a new duty location.
“The goal of the EFMP medical arm is to do our best to determine if the family’s medical and/or educational needs can be met at the gaining base,” she said. “The information provided about the gaining location’s services is simply to help the service member make the best decision they can with regard to their family and career.”
In addition to the EFMP orientation sessions scheduled throughout the year, the program will present parent support group workshops that address topics requested by the families themselves for the second year in a row, Bell said.
Two popular workshops from last year will return in 2020 – Medicaid on Jan. 23 and financial planning on March 29 – while the remaining workshops are still under consideration, he said.
With the support of Military OneSource, the workshops will again be webcast for EFMP members who are not able to attend the sessions at the M&FRC, Bell said.
“The webcasts were a huge success last year,” he said. “They let people who can’t get out of their house be a part of it. Military members can also watch the presentations from their desk.”
The EFMP team also hopes to offer special family outings in 2020, such as a movie, bowling, picnic and visit to SeaWorld.
Senior Master Sgt. Jeremy Field, Air Force Personnel Center Inspector General Office superintendent, said he and his family – which includes his two sons who qualify for the EFMP – have benefited from the special events and last year’s workshops.
“The special events allowed my family to enjoy all those activities in a sensory-friendly and nonjudgmental environment,” he said. “The financial planning workshops my wife and I were able to attend were of great value as they provided the guiding information needed to get my family set up with a special needs will and trust, currently in effect, which significantly reduced the associated stress of worrying about my family’s financial future in the event of an accident that takes my life or that of my wife’s.”
Field’s advice for young families just joining the program is to start with the EFMP coordinator at the M&FRC.
“From there they will be given the guidance and support needed to ensure their family’s special needs are fully met,” he said. “At the time when my 18-month and 5-year-old boys were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it was very difficult for my wife and I to see any hope for a better future. However, after learning about and participating in the awesome EFMP support events and services over the last few years, my wife and I now have hope for a better future for both of my boys and family as a whole.”