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Meeting ‘special needs’ of mission success

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Unless you are an active duty member with a special needs family member, you are probably not aware of the Air Force's Special Needs program and what it can do for you. The USAF Special Needs program is used to identify and track active duty families with special medical needs and ensure those needs are met. The program tries to prevent active duty members from moving to bases that can't support their family's health needs. The Air Force knows that if a member is concerned about their family not getting the proper level of care, their mind won't be on the mission and the family member might suffer.

What are special needs, you ask? Special needs can be specific housing needs, or the need for complex medical equipment such as a ventilator or a nebulizer device. In fact, if you have a family member who requires recurring specialty medical appointments at least twice per year, they might be a candidate for the program.

How is a family identified as having special needs? First of all, if your Primary Care Manager determines a family member has a qualifying medical condition, they will direct the family to the patient administration section to sign up for the program. Unfortunately, sometimes conditions are not identified until the member is getting ready to PCS. At that time, patient administration personnel review the medical records for qualifying medical conditions. This is done so conditions can be identified to the gaining base and they can determine if they have the proper resources available to provide the necessary medical care to the families they support. If they don't, the member might not be able to move to that location.

This program is important so the member can be assured that the medical needs of their family will be anticipated and met before moving to a new area. In addition, it is used to track families who may have special medical requirements during evacuations. If a family member requires electricity to run necessary medical equipment or has a need for oxygen, the USAF Special Needs program can assist with locating those special shelters before an emergency arises.

The special needs coordinator is available to make the program a success. You can help by self-identifying family members to your PCM and get signed up for the program. Remember, this program is intended to help keep families healthy and focused on the mission.