If you have been following Partners in PROMISE, you might know that our Executive Director, Michelle Norman, is a Navy spouse. Her work within the Navy community has played a major role in providing inputs into the Navy’s EFMP app and developing the Navy’s newest project, a 3-year pilot program that will provide legal resources to EFMP families.
During the October 9, 2020 Military Family Readiness Congressional Summit, Rear Admiral Charles Rock stated that the program will launch in the first quarter of FY21 in Navy Region Southwest (San Diego, CA) and Navy Region Mid-Atlantic (Norfolk, VA). “Similar to the program the U.S. Marine Corps has utilized since 2009. . . Both regions have been resourced to hire a total of two civilian Special Education attorneys, two Special Education Liaisons (Advocates) and 11 additional contract Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) EFMP Case Liaisons to assist in reducing EFM caseloads in these regions where there are significant EFM concentrations.”
New EFMP Trained Staff
The staffed positions will be filled by the end of October 2020. The staff hired under this pilot program will assist Navy EFMP families with Individual Education Programs (IEP), 504 plans, and other services to support the special educational requirements of military-affiliated children with special needs.
However, not every family who has an IEP or 504 need will automatically be connected to a special education attorney. But rather, you will be served by other specialists and elevated to higher levels as the need dictates.
The first level of support will be the newly trained FFSC EFMP Case Liaisons within the regional pilot areas. These EFMP Case Liaisons will now be able to attend IEP/504 plan meetings with the family’s permission in order to provide Navy EFMP special education support.
If the Navy families special education needs are beyond the scope and expertise of FFSC EFMP Case Liaisons, you will be connected to the second level of support, the regional Special Education Liaison (Advocate), who will be able to discuss and review IEPs and Section 504 plans with your family. These Special Education Liaisons can also attend IEP/504 plan meetings and advocate family positions.
In those instances where additional EFMP advocacy and assistance are required but beyond the scope and experience of the regional Special Education Liaison, a third level of support is available for families as they will be referred to the Special Education Attorney.
What Will the Special Education Attorneys Do?
According to Rear Admiral Rock’s testimony “the Special Education Attorney may provide support in the following areas:
Meeting with active duty EFMP Sailors and their families to review and evaluate their cases.
Providing expert legal advice to EFM families seeking special educational and disability benefits from federal, state, and local authorities.
Advocating for EFM family members and when necessary, appearing in school and administrative forums, including for Individual Education Program team meetings, mediation, due process hearings, and behavioral intervention plans.
In certain cases as determined by the attorney, appearing in Virginia state courts and federal courts on behalf of EFM family members.
Advising clients concerning social security disability and Medicaid, including the preparation of applications, and in certain cases as determined by the attorney, appeals.
Making recommendations to families, if necessary, of local service providers, evaluators, community advocates, pro bono attorneys, psychologists and other professionals crucial to securing the rights of the families.
In limited cases, where alternate help or referrals cannot be made, providing in-court representation for guardianship of adult incapacitated children.”
EFMP Legal Training
In June of this year, the Navy’s Legal Assistance Office hosted over 100 service branch representatives at a Parents Engaged in Learning Equality (PELE) Clinic at William & Mary Law School. This five-day online course included military legal service attorneys, paralegals, and Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) case liaisons. According to Rear Admiral Rock, these individuals “learned about the legal foundations of special education, helping to equip them to advise and represent parents in matters pertaining to eligibility, IDEA and 504 Plans, Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), disabilities/eligibility categories, conflict resolution, due process, Manifestation Determination Reviews (MDRs) and other topics related to special education.”
All in all the Navy is leading the way in EFMP reform. Their sights set on correcting the problems that have plagued EFMP families and Partners in PROMISE has been greatly encouraged in the results thus far!