Overseas screening is a good idea. I say that without irony. It’s the military’s way of making sure everyone has the care they need wherever the duty assignment is taking them and their family. So if a family is headed overseas or to a remote duty assignment, and one of the kids, say, has braces, this screening makes sure that they will have access to orthodontics or whatever. In our case, pediatric cardiologists. Good, right? I am happy to do paperwork to make sure Isaac’s care is conscientious and complete. Thumbs up.
Overseas screening covers three main areas: physical, educational/mental, and dental.
The way it works is: our inclusion in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) flags the bureaucracy. Hello! Paperwork and red tape needed here! The bureaucracy issued an order to our current command (Dec. 7) and the command notifid us (Dec. 17) that this paperwork needed to be complete by January 6 (active duty) and Feb 5 (dependents).
“You have to do it too, and that includes visiting the dentist and a well woman exam,” Chris told me in December. “No, never mind, just the EFMP dependent and I have to do it,” he corrected a few days later.
There seemed to be some confusion on that, so we kept asking. Four different times, Chris confirmed Eloise and I did not have to complete the screening for orders to Hawaii. He ran all over kingdom come picking up medical files, returning those files, getting signatures and stamps for his own screening. I did the same for The Boy’s. His dentist, his preschool supervisor, his cardiologist. We sent messages to the incoming command in Hawaii. We got him the required tuberculosis skin test and follow up check.
The day it was all finished, Chris went to pick up the finalized paperwork and was told…Eloise and I DO have to complete it. I spent three of the next 10 days racing to Point Loma and back to fill out forms, get my own tuberculosis test and whatnot. I filed a waiver because they couldn’t get us an appointment until three days after our deadline. We answered questions about the waiver. We fired off emails to everyone along the chain trying to get confirmation one way or the other on whether or not this was required. No one had any clear answers, so we forged ahead.
Today! Today was the final day! The doctor reviewed my paperwork.
“I don’t see a physical in here for you,” she frowned at the sheets on her desk. My stomach churned. I’d spent hours in here last week making sure my paperwork was complete, and had doubled checked a couple days ago and this morning. I said nothing, waiting.
“Oh, I see you went to the doctor last spring…” she reviewed my computerized files. She stamped the paperwork and moved on to Eloise’s. The kids watched cartoons. I hung in suspense, not breathing, while she looked for Eloise’s dental paperwork.
“There’s no hard copy because the printer was out of toner during prescreening, but they put it in her computerized records,” I tried to sound casual but my voice felt strained and unnatural. Chris was on his way to pick up the finalized papers. Would they be finished? Or would we launch into another round of frenzied doctor visits?
“I’m going to clear you,” the doctor said reassuringly. I guess I looked like I needed reassurance. I want to be cool, but….
“You’re all set,” she said a few minutes later. “I’ll have them scan this into the system, then return the hard copies to you.”
I floated out of her office with the kids right as Chris walked into the waiting room. I beamed at him. This has been hanging over my head since mid-December—complicated, infrequent paperwork where the rules change periodically and different requirements apply to different situations. NOT MY FORTE. Well maybe it is now.
“It’s all done! They’re just scanning it in!” I felt so free. “I feel like a huge weight is slowly lifting off of me. I feel 50 pounds lighter.” Chris looked happy. The kids happily watched Paw Patrol, squeezed into one chair. I felt happy.
The guy who’d been helping me with the paperwork approached with a folder held in both hands, head bowed slightly.
“Ma’am, here’s your paperwork. I need to apologize,” he said sheepishly. “You and your daughter didn’t need to complete the overseas screening at all. I do apologize for telling you that.”
That weight that was lifting off me? POW. Exploded like a lead balloon, shrapnel flying. Three days of wasted preschool hours. Countless hours of phone calls and forms and putting off my kids because I had to do paperwork and Chris and I annoyed at each other because the process is confusing and aggravating….
I blinked. “Yeah, I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that,” I said.
Somewhat deflated, I handed Chris the unnecessary folder and took the kids to swim lessons. I watched them float, light and buoyant, learning not to fight the water, but master it. Was today a float in military bureaucracy? Or did I sink? I wonder.
But whether we did it the easy way or the hard way, OVERSEAS SCREENING IS COMPLETE!