The Department of Defense is asking military families with special needs to share how they are doing and what they need. The Pentagon is rolling out its first survey for people enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program, the military’s benefits and services assistance program for those service members. 

“By completing the survey, families can make sure DOD understands where its policies and programs are helping them and where improvements can be made. Leadership will take the results from this survey seriously,” Patricia Montes Barron, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Military Community and Family Policy, said in a department release

The military is seeking the feedback to help inform any policy changes. The survey will ask active-duty servicemembers about various aspects of the program, from enrollment to services provided, as well as transitions related to permanent changes of station. 

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Currently approximately 110,000 active-duty servicemembers are enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program. Those people will be receiving an email inviting them to participate in the survey; a link to it is also available on the program’s website. It’s only being sent to people directly in the military, although the Department of Defense is encouraging military families to weigh in as well. 

“When a family PCSs to the next location, they may be looking for particular medical services, specialists, therapies, behavioral health — those types of services — and we want to make sure that when they do PCS, they’ll have continuity of care,” according to Jennifer Wong, a program analyst within the Office of Special Needs. 

Wong said the results of the survey will be used by the department to both improve the program and standardize delivery to all families across the services. The survey is not mandatory. It is, however, confidential. 

“Within the Office of Special Needs, we are committed to improving support for military families with special medical and/or educational needs,” Wong said in a release. “A vital part of that … is hearing from families who are enrolled in the program. It’s very important to hear from the families who are in the program so we have feedback that’s representative of the families we serve, and it’s based off their real-life experiences and their interactions with the program. That’s why it’s a great opportunity for families who are enrolled to participate in the survey.” 

Childcare and other military benefits have been ongoing issues for military families. A 2019 survey saw more than a third of families with special needs children report they didn’t have the support or services they need. On a wider level, the Department of Defense has announced new benefits to help servicemembers and families with costly items such as childcare and groceries.

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