Military Offers Resources for Families of Children with Special Needs

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a report reviewing child care programs for children with special needs who are also children of military personnel. The report did not offer recommendations but found that despite the Department of Defense's efforts to coordinate services, each branch of the military uses a different definition of "special needs child care," and that child care services vary widely depending on the base.

Despite the GAO's findings, when it comes to child care the military generally tries to help families with special needs in a variety of ways.

To begin with, the military coordinates services for family members with special needs through the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP ). Members of the armed forces who have family members with special needs (who could be spouses, children or dependent adults) are required to enroll in EFMP. Once enrolled, EFMP helps a military family find federal and community resources that meet its special needs, and it also helps families transition services between assignments.

The Department of Defense has created a very useful Parent Tool Kit for military parents of children with special needs. The tool kit, available for download here, consists of six different modules that offer assistance with special education, health care and more.

In addition to these tools, the military has created Special Care Organizational Records for adults with special needs, children with special needs and elderly family members. These records, which are just as helpful for non-military families, allow caregivers to collect and organize information about all aspects of the life of a person with special needs. The records differ depending on the age of the person with special needs, but, in general, they include places to record medical histories, medications, educational goals and other important information.

Unfortunately, for all of the resources that it makes available for families of children with special needs, the military still does not allow service members to direct military survivor benefits to a special needs trust for the benefit of a child with a disability. Although legislation has been proposed that would fix this problem, it stalled in the last Congress and may not be renewed this year.

Article Last Modified: 05/09/2013