As promised in our last blog, this post is all about health care! Health care reigns supreme as the most appreciated support program available to the military community, according to our 2017 survey, which asked mostly open-ended questions of service members, veterans, and their families to gauge how they really feel about support programming. However, respondents did not shy away from calling out specific programs that need improvement.

Military families mentioned TRICARE, Exceptional Family Member/Special Needs programs (EFMP/SNP), and mental health care in their feedback:

Tricare

More than 78 percent of respondents rely on TRICARE, and those who use it rated their experiences with the program as mostly positive. But, when asked to describe their experiences we found many of their comments were negative.

  • One satisfied respondent said, “Tricare has enabled me to become a mom! The price for IVF is reduced to about half the price. This made my dreams come true.”
  • Whereas negative responses focused on difficulty finding care, poor care, and challenges navigating the system.
  • One service member shared, “It is an adversarial system designed to pit the patient against the care provider. Everything is a fight and I am tired of being treated like an idiot. The disrespect and condescension towards patients can be overwhelming at times.”
  • While another said, “It needs to be more user friendly in remote care areas and update their list of choices often as, over half of the choices are either no longer in the area, deceased or no longer practicing.”
  • Overall respondents are grateful for TRICARE and what is offers but want to see improvement in this system.

EFMP/SNP

Similar to feedback on TRICARE, those who qualify for EFMP/SNP are grateful for these programs but would like to see them work more efficiently.

  • Of the small fraction of eligible respondents, they want more available care and standardization among branches.
  • One frustrated respondent said, “Not only does EFMP mean different things for different branches (even though it shouldn’t) the USAF doesn’t have processes in place to ensure standardization across each of the MTF’s, clinic personnel, training and ID processes for eligible beneficiaries. Leads to confusion, and many families falling thru the cracks and unable to receive services.”
  • Another respondent said, “EFMP Program needs to take the best of each branch of service and make that the standard for the whole program. Funding should be the same across all branches and funding needs to be enough to truly make a difference and impact.”

Mental Health Care

Mental health care is important to military members and their families but unfortunately there are obstacles to getting the help they need which we describe in detail below.

  • Military families’ personal feelings and resistance to mental health care are the main barriers to seeking it. One spouse shared, “I have worried about my husband getting denied for orders because I sought mental health support.”
  • But even outside of these concerns, families are having trouble seeking they care they need — and there’s a difference between the challenges that active duty and veteran families face.
  • Active duty families expressed difficulty simply with finding mental health care in their area and getting an appointment
  • Whereas veteran families described additional issues, including poor care experiences and trouble with the expenses associated with care.
  • One respondent shared, “As active duty, wonderful and easy/ As the spouse of a Retiree – IMPOSSIBLE! There are no ‘authorized’ providers in my area, so I have to pay the amount out of pocket. And it isn’t cheap.”

MFAN will be conducting further research into these findings — including where in the United States families are experiencing the most difficulty — to determine how best to support the military community through these challenges.

And in our next blog post, we will talk about another area of concern for military families — their finances. The nature of military life creates financial stress, and this stress has widespread implications. In some cases, respondents don’t have enough in savings to cover three months of living expenses. Check back here next week to learn more about the financial state of the military community.

If you would like more information in the meantime, check out the full report.