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Exceptional Family Member Program, Overseas Clearance and PCS: How Does It Work?

Permanent Change of Station season is almost upon us, and with such an exciting time in a military family's life, it is good to start preparing ahead of time.

All military members receiving orders overseas will have to accomplish a Family Member Relocation Clearance (FMRC), which medically clears all family members traveling to an overseas location. For families involved with the Exceptional Family Member Program, a mandated program for family members with special medical or educational needs, the process will be the same for your Exceptional Family Member regardless of whether you are relocating within the U.S. or overseas.

The program is not designed only for individuals with severe disabilities. The EFMP also serves those with mild requirements such as speech or occupational therapy. For more information regarding criteria for the EFMP, make sure to contact your local EFMP office. For the purpose of this article, let's focus on the general process of overseas relocation.

It can be very exciting for many families to have the military send them overseas where they can begin the type of traveling most of us fantasize about. As the Special Needs Coordinator for Los Angeles AFB, it is my job to facilitate the FMRC and accomplish the medical clearances for our families. Therefore, I will provide some insight, perhaps even some education, regarding what this process involves. At times, these clearances can be quite lengthy. Other times, FMRCs can be quick and concise.

First, the active duty member receives a new assignment notification. Next comes the paperwork and coordination necessary to begin the clearances for family members. A call or stop by the TOPA (TRICARE Operations and Patient Administration) office to meet with the FMRC Coordinator will begin the process. It is located in the 61st Medical Squadron's Clinic, Bldg. 210, Room 1A02.

The FMRC Coordinator will conduct a screening that allows us to know what paperwork you may need. At that time, he/she will give you all necessary paperwork, explain the process, and discuss the appointment needed for the FMRC. All the paperwork must be complete before the appointment can be conducted or you will need to reschedule.

Once you have accomplished all the paperwork, you will return it to the FMRC Coordinator who will schedule you and your family for a 15 to 20 minute clearance appointment with the Special Needs Coordinator and the Chief of Medical Staff. After that appointment has been completed, the forms are signed by our Chief of Medical Staff and one of two options occurs: your paperwork is sent to MPS to show family members are cleared for travel, or a Facility Determination Inquiry (FDI) will be created.

If it is determined that an FDI is required, the packet of forms is sent to the gaining base overseas to determine whether or not that base has the necessary services appropriate for your family member(s). For example, if your spouse has Type 1 Diabetes, and has an insulin pump, we will need to ensure the gaining base has a local adult endocrinologist in order to keep your spouse healthy at the gaining location. It's the Air Force's way of safeguarding your family member's health. If your child has an Individualized Education Plan or they have an Individualized Family Service Plan (for those children not school aged) then it is crucial we send a copy of that to the gaining base Department of Defense school system to ensure any needs can be met adequately.

The most important aspect to remember throughout the entire process is timing. If an FDI needs to be sent, the process could take up to 14 days, or possibly longer. The gaining base will assess your family's needs and determine whether they can be accommodated. If it is determined they cannot, then that wonderful overseas assignment you have been dreaming about could be canceled. There are some safeguards put in place to ensure the decision made is appropriate. At times, you may get an assignment to a neighboring Air Force base that can accommodate the active duty member's Air Force specialty code and your family member's needs. If there are no overseas bases that can accommodate the FDI, then you should talk with the SNC and MPS to discuss the available options for your family.

Things to remember: Do not sell your house, your car, or give away your cat. If your FDI is not approved, you will remain on location until another option is reached. The active duty member will not receive his or her official orders until an approval for family member travel has been achieved. This means you will not be able to schedule your movers or get out of a lease you are currently in. Please allow six months for this process, so that your family has enough time to complete all the steps necessary to make the process run smoothly.

Having an overseas assignment can be very exciting, but quite intensive as well. Taking steps to ensure you have what you need in a timely manner will definitely help the process.

Please feel free to contact our office with any questions regarding EFMP or FMRC at (310) 653-6480. We will be happy to assist. Good luck on your next assignment!

Additional Reference: Air Force Instruction 40-701

Updated: 2 Aug 2015