You may be familiar with military moves, but moving with a child who has a serious medical condition creates a whole new set of challenges. Not only will you need to manage your move, but you'll also need to make sure your child has access to uninterrupted medical care. The following information is designed to help military families plan their move, while at the same time managing their child's illness.
Planning ahead is key to ensuring your move is a smooth one. If you’re moving from an overseas or a remote area because your child needs access to medical care, you may have to plan quickly. These tips will help you get started:
- Create a "command central" for your move. This is a designated place to keep to-do lists and important papers such as passports, medical records, and orders. You may want to keep these documents in a large accordion folder, which can be easy to stow when the movers are packing your household goods. If you're keeping important information on your computer, be sure to back it up.
- Find out if you qualify for priority housing at your new duty station. On many installations, families with children with special needs can request priority housing, which may allow them to move into installation housing more quickly. Each installation has different requirements, so contact your Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) coordinator for more information.
- Arrange for temporary lodging. Arrange for temporary lodging as far in advance as possible. If your child needs special adaptations, let the lodging facility know in advance. Your Relocation Assistance Program (RAP) office can help you find a lodging facility.
- Make a list of medicines and other medical supplies you'll need while traveling. Your Primary Care Manager (PCM) can help you order an extra supply of medications and medical supplies before a permanent change of station (PCS) move. You'll want to carry at least one month's supply of your child's medication with you. Take your request to the pharmacy in advance - it may take a while for your order to be filled.
- Have your doctor write a summary of your child's medical condition to carry with you. Even though medical records are stored electronically, a hard copy summary will be helpful if you run into a problem while traveling. If your child has had medical tests, such as an MRI or CT scan, ask your PCM to make a copy of the results to hand carry when you travel.
- Make hard copies of important paperwork. You'll want to have hard copies of orders, travel documents, passports, and other important papers. If your child is school age or involved in a program for infants and toddlers with special needs, make sure you have a copy of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). You'll want to take these to the school district as soon as you arrive at your new duty station.
- Have your doctor contact the medical team at your new duty station. Your doctor can send information and medical records ahead so the medical team at your new duty station will be prepared for your arrival.
- Contact the EFMP coordinator at your current installation as soon as you have orders. Let them know when you are leaving and the installation to which you will be moving. Your current EFMP coordinator can then contact the EFMP coordinator at the next installation.
- Prepare your child for the move.Moving can be tough on kids, especially if they're saying goodbye to friends. You can get them excited about your new community by letting them know about the fun things near your new home.
- Prepare for the trip. As you make your travel arrangements, build in extra time so you aren't rushed while traveling. If you're flying, contact the airlines to make sure they can accommodate your child's special needs. The Transportation Security Administration's site for Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions offers more information.
There are a number of things to keep in mind when the actual day to move arrives:
- Arrange for child care while the movers are packing your household goods. Take advantage of friends, family, or the local child care center to care for your child on moving day so you can stay focused on the move.
- Keep important papers, medicines, and medical equipment locked away. Put items you are carrying with you in a separate location - locked in a car or at a friend's house. Make sure they are in a safe place so your child can't get into the medicines. You'll also want them away from the movers, who could mistakenly pack them.
- Keep emergency phone numbers with you at all times. Make sure you have a list of emergency phone numbers to keep with you on moving day and as you travel to your new duty station. Include a number for a doctor who can answer emergency questions while you travel.
Adjusting to your new duty station
Once you arrive at your new home, you'll want to make sure your child's medical treatment resumes as soon as possible. As you get settled in, make sure to contact state and local agencies to find out if you qualify for any local programs.
- Report to the TRICARE Service Center. If you've changed TRICARE regions during your move, contact the TRICARE Service Center as soon as possible to confirm enrollment in the new TRICARE region.
- Set up an appointment with your child's PCM. Your child's PCM will be managing your child's care, so you'll want to set up a time to meet with him or her as soon as possible.
- Connect with the EFMP coordinator at your new installation. The EFMP coordinator can put you in touch with local services, both on and off installation. The EFMP office also has information on priority housing at your new duty station and can help you complete the paperwork, if you qualify.
- Set up an appointment with the Social Security Administration (SSA). You may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income, depending on your child's diagnosis and your income. The qualifications vary by state, so even if you didn't qualify previously, you may now.
- Contact Medicaid. Medicaid may cover co-payments and some supplies not covered by TRICARE or the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO). In some states, Medicaid is handled through SSA. If it isn't handled through the SSA office, visit the State Health Department office in your new community (for a directory, visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) site and follow the links under "Contact CMS").
- Check out available child care. For working parents, finding child care is critical when you move to a new community. First, check with your installation's Child Development Center (CDC) to see how they can best serve your child and his or her medical needs. You may also contact the installation's EFMP coordinator, who can refer you to available resources and help you find a Special Needs Advisor, if one is available at your installation.
- Visit your child's school. Services vary by state and by school, so a visit will help you determine how the school can best suit your child's needs. Early intervention services may be available to children who are not yet school age. If your child has an IEP or IFSP, make sure you have a hard copy in hand when you visit the school.
- Take time out for yourself. Moving can be stressful, especially when you have a child who has special needs. To be at your best, you need to take some time out for yourself. Take advantage of respite care or friends who offer to help. Try to relax, work out, get together with friends, or do whatever recharges you.