To Change Tricare, ECHO and EFMP We’ll Need to Document the Facts

It’s no secret that it requires a great amount of patience, emotional intelligence and great follow-up skills when submitting documentation for services for your autistic child. Tricare overall is a good health care plan, but when it comes to the accuracy and efficiency of getting services for our autistic children it falls short of the mark.

In order to help facilitate change it is time for all of us within the military autism community to start factually documenting and then aggregate our problematic experiences with these organizations over a certain period of time. I would suggest a 6-month period.

Here is the simplicity of what I am suggesting:

1) Get a notebook binder – something you can easily take notes in to document your efforts from start to finish.
2) Every time you submit documentation to Tricare, ECHO, or EFMP (or any organization that you regularly deal with) keep a copy of what you submitted and log in your notebook the day, time and specific person(s) you sent the documentation to. Ask when you will see a result from your submission. How long will it take to fulfill your request?
3) Proactively follow-up on progress of your submission with emails and/or calls and document the day, time you called and who specifically you spoke with. Also, make a note on the progress of your submission. Did they lose it and ask you to submit it again? When you called did you get different guidance or were asked to send additional paperwork that should have been sent the first time you submitted? Document all of this and how the guidance differed from this individual from the last individual. Ask again when you can expect results from your request.
4) Follow-up again with them in a timely matter to check status. And as #3 above, document any inconsistencies, delays the day, time and who specifically you spoke to (first and last names).
5) Continue steps above with every effort of paperwork submission or change in services or programming until one of the following happens: A) You get it resolved and everything is put into place properly, B) You reach a level of frustration and have procured enough documentation to take your complaint to your chain of command to see if they can assist, or C) You are getting nowhere and not it is time to take all of your factual, specific documentation that you have collected over the past months (or perhaps years in some cases, lol) and take your matter up with the Inspector General, or perhaps even your congressman.

We have been guilty of complaining at time about the issues these organizations have. It is difficult not to do with the error-prone system each of these organizations seems to have in place. I contend that the only way to start to help the system get better is to push within. And in order to accomplish that we need FACTS. We need many parents to document the FACTS of the problems, lost documentation, wrong guidance of paperwork, delays, inaccuracies, etc. If we can create a groundswell of documentation from hundreds or even better, thousands of families, who are willing to take the time to get a notebook and document, I believe we will start to effect change in a positive way.

This will take diligence and commitment. But, I can assure you that when it comes time for resolve, FACTS are what speaks volumes. If you ever go to Due Process with your school district, or file a state complaint, the judge will want to hear the FACTS, not your opinion, conjecture or the like. As Ronald Reagan said, “Facts are pesky little things.” The more we have to push into the face of Tricare, ECHO and EFMP the better the organizations will be forced to comply more efficiently with the needs that all of us in the military autism community have.

In advocacy,

Mike

Caring For Military Kids with Autism ACT (CKMAA) Perspective

Here is a great post about the CKMAA that I stumbled across. As a military service member I can appreciate both of the benefits and areas of improvement in organizations such as EFMP, ECHO, Tricare and others. There is much good, but there is also much that needs vast improvement on.

This a a great outside perspective on an inside issue that for sure, I believe, to be very relevant.

Some changes can be made with little pain or increase in budgets. Beginning with the passage of the CKMAA would be a huge boost in the right direction to correct some of the coverage deficiencies and stigma associations that exist for military families living with autism.

Here is a brief snippet of the post and a link to read the whole thing.


Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act- Why It Matters To All of Us

About two years ago I met a family who just moved to our school. Their child had a severe speech delay and developmental issues. Upon meeting the mother, I asked about her provider. “What? Provider for what?” After explaining that she was eligible for a minimum of behavioral, speech, and occupational therapy for her child and may qualify for more, she looked shocked. I told her about what we were doing for our girls, what we were getting through ECHO (the military’s supplementary insurance program), and what she needed to do. She said, “ECHO? Wow, that must be something new. I will look into that. My husband just won’t let us apply for EFMP.”

For those of you lucky enough not to understand the acronyms, EFMP stands for Exceptional Family Member Program. This basically puts your family member in a “level of care” category based on the needs of that family member. The military then decides, based on this category, where they can and cannot send the service member. Or, so they say.

EFMP carries with it a stigma that many service members cannot separate from. It means that this person really cannot (or should not) go anywhere and do anything. It is hard to get the qualifications needed to promote to the next level and pay grade if you can’t go anywhere and do anything. It could mean the difference in retiring at 20 years or 30 years. It could mean thousands of dollars more a month in retirement for the rest of the service member’s life. Many people don’t want to take the risk. As a result, their child does not get the help and services they need. Such was the case with the family I met.

I am sure that those of you on the outside may ask yourself, “How could someone let this happen?” or “How could you simply….

Please click HERE to open a new window and read the rest of the post.

In Advocacy,

Mike

Standardization May Be Key For EFMP Families

For anyone willing to listen to me, I have suggested that one of the keys that could readily aide the ability of military families to get better access to education, advocacy, services, etc would be to standardize programs like EFMP across all services. It appears that a large study is being conducted to assist in the potential of standardization across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Having different EFMP programs facilitated differently from the branches I believe has been good since the programs inception. However, we are at a fiscal operational point now where the study and adoption of best practices across all the services is badly needed. Each service branch has a couple special things that when adopted across all branches will decrease the current disparity that exists from branch to branch and installation to installation.

When we moved from an Army post to a Naval Air Station we quickly realized the massive differences in the content, quality and operation of the EFMP operation in our one specific instance. I have to imagine that the differences are varied and widespread. A study like the one about to launch is a step in the right direction for sure.

Access to advocate services, legal representation, education, ancillary programs such as respite and others are all programs that will better service all military EFMs by being under one umbrella of services. Plus, with the increasingly joint operations that the services are rapidly heading to, bench marking, best practices and standardization just makes sense.

I hope this study is well done and provides some excellent results!

Here is a clip and the link follows to read the whole article from medicalexpres.com:

“If you don’t have policy informed by the literature and research, you are apt to be floating around, without sufficient direction,” Turnbull said. “There most likely will be standardization of policy and practice as a result of our work, and that result becomes very important given the amount of intra-service and intra-base work in the military. Military personnel need some certainty in their lives. But there’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty in their lives because they deploy often and they’re frequently in harm’s way. When we can provide certain standardized policies and services that are available at every branch and at every installation, then we can assist the military family support programs to address the special-needs issues that military families have.”

Turnbull said that standardization and improvement of policies designed to help families with special-needs members would likely boost the overall effectiveness of the armed services, while improving the lives of those who serve their country.

Click here for the rest of the article:

New Website Added To Recommended Websites – “Military Homefront – EFMP Special Needs Toolkit”

The Department of Defense (DoD) has come up with a pretty good resource on a website called Military Homefront.

According to the DoD,

Military Homefront is the Department of Defense website for official Military Community and Family Policy (MC&FP) program information, policy and guidance designed to help troops and their families, leaders, and service providers. Whether you live the military lifestyle or support those who do, you’ll find what you need.

There is a section devoted to the military special needs community and the program that drives the benefits and service under the DoD’s Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). The link here, or the one on the right side of the page, is a shortcut to a tool provided called the EFMP Toolbox. Procedures on how to enroll, links and other useful information relating to the EFMP can be found here.

In Advocacy,

Mike