This blog is the most recent in a series helping members of the Coast Guard family understand how to use their TRICARE benefits. The blog series will continue every Monday, right here on Coast Guard All Hands.
Written by: Cmdr. Jerald Mahlau-Heinert
The Special Needs Program (SNP) is a mandatory enrollment program for all active duty and selected reserve members on orders for 180 days or more who have dependent family members diagnosed with medical, psychological, physical, or educational special needs.
The SNP, working in concert with other military and civilian agencies, provides a comprehensive, coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to community support, housing, medical, educational, and personnel services for Coast Guard families with special needs. The program works hand-in-hand with Coast Guard medical and military personnel officials and addresses potential conflicts between locations of duty assignments and the availability of resources to accommodate family members with unique medical, physical, psychological and educational needs.
Once service members are enrolled in the program, their personnel files are flagged in Direct Access and assigned to a Family Resource Specialist (FRS). When the assignment officer (AO) sees the name flagged, he or she must verify through an FRS that the services required for the enrolled family member with special needs can be met at a location before cutting orders. To help ensure the verification process is smooth and transparent, the Coast Guard uses the special needs category system, as follows:
Category 1: Medical, physical, psychological condition is readily treatable, such as mild hypertension or seasonal allergies or special education needs. In this category, members may be stationed in any geographical location. Unique overseas locations may have some limitations.
Category 2: Condition is generally minor and treatable, such as mild migraines, eczema, stable ADHD/ADD, and uncomplicated special educational needs. In this category, members may be stationed in geographic locations with access to a major medical area within 100 miles, or two-hour drive from an assigned duty station.
Category 3: Condition requires increased attention, such as; moderate disabilities, diabetes, asthma, most behavioral health care, and specialized educational needs. In this category, members may be stationed in geographic locations with access to a major medical area within 50 miles, or one-hour drive from an assigned duty station.
Category 4: Condition requires significant attention, such as severe lupus, cerebral palsy, chronic heart disease, major depression, and complex educational needs. In this category, members may be stationed in geographic locations with access to a major medical area within 25 miles, or 30-minute drive from an assigned duty station.
Category 5: Condition requires constant, high-level attention, such as multiple disabilities, complicated cancer cases, severe cases of autism, and multiple, complex educational needs. In this category, members may be stationed in geographic locations with access to a major medical area within 25 miles, or 30-minute drive from an assigned duty station.
Category T: This category does not focus on the severity of a condition, but rather on the time needed for the condition to be resolved. It allows for temporary enrollment of service members in the special needs program where the family member’s condition can be addressed and resolved in a short period of time (typically within 6-12 months).
For categories 4 and 5, a pre-set list of approved locations will be used by the AO to determine an assignment location. The approved list has been published on the CG-1112 website. Typically, no coordination between the AO and FRS will be needed for category 4 or 5 cases however coordination does occur for the other categories on a case-by-case basis.
To best meet the needs of Coast Guard families and to ensure that active duty members are ready for the new transfer season, please plan early and check with your local FRS on your special needs enrollment status.