VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — With all the moves, all the deployments, and all the danger, military life is already tough enough for the troops and their loved ones.
It's even harder if they have a child who is disabled.
Navy wife Michelle Norman told the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee of her difficult and expensive fight with the Virginia Beach school system to get academic services for her special needs daughter.
"Military families and children are suffering, which in turn is severely impacting military readiness and retention," she said. "We are too burdened, too scared of reprisals, too tired, too spent from deployments and too broke to obtain the resources our children need."
The military's Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) is supposed to help by making sure special needs are considered during assignments, and by easing access to assistance.
But, there have been problems with inconsistency and lack of advocacy.
"Military families complain EFMP coordination is not thorough," said Kelly Hruska, Government Relations Director, National Military Family Association. "Some say they are sent to areas with insufficient medical or educational assets to meet their needs."
Rep.Trent Kelly (R-Mississippi) questioned the program's effectiveness.
"And today I think our EFMP, Exceptional Family Member Program, is not making sure that our warriors have that peace of mind," he said. "It's important that they have that peace of mind. We know what the program should be doing. But, is it carrying out its mandate?"
A Government Accountability Office report out this week found that the Department of Defense has made limited progress on oversight of the program.
On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said a personal priority of his is the well-being of military personnel and their families.
"These men and women are the backbone of our national security," he said. "And it's our duty to ensure that the and their families are cared for so that they can focus on the mission."