2021 NDAA at a Glance | Organization for Autism Research

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The 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) became law at the beginning of 2021. What does this mean for military families and, more specifically, for the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP)?

The most important takeaway is that the Act standardizes the EFMP. This means that EFMP families should find it easier to get services after a move and be able to count on standardized respite care benefits and consistent case management, according to an article on the Military.com website. Additionally, the NDAA:

  • Provides for the establishment of an EFMP case manager and case management model at each installation.
  • Establishes requirements for the Office of Special Needs to develop and update individualized service plans.
  • Provides for EFMP attorneys for all branches, as is currently done for Marine Corps families.
  • Provides for special education advocates to help families establish and maintain individualized education programs (IEPs) before, during, and after PCS moves.

Through enhancements to the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) program, EFMP families will have access to 32 hours of respite care, up from the current 16 hours for primary caregivers, as noted in an article on the Military Families Magazine website. The Association of Defense Communities also reports that the NDAA requires a GAO study to examine ECHO use and user satisfaction.

Beyond respite care, the NDAA provides for 24-hour childcare available for any service member or Department of Defense civilian who works rotating shifts on an installation where it’s deemed feasible, according to the National Military Family Association article.

The National Military Family Association also reports that the bill sets aside funding for public schools and school districts. It will provide $10 million in funding for public schools that serve military children with severe disabilities and an additional $10 million for school districts with higher concentrations of special needs military children, to be used at the discretion of the defense secretary. It also requires an evaluation of school districts and the impact of funding on the ability to serve high- and special-needs military kids. The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) is planning to expand eligibility for its virtual high school program to currently ineligible students, with preference given to those who live in rural areas and homeschoolers, the article notes.


Sherri Alms is the freelance editor of The OARacle, a role she took on in 2007. She has been a freelance writer and editor for more than 20 years.


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