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The Special Needs Education Allowance (SNEA) assists with funding special education and related educationally required services for dependent children of employees who are eligible for the Department of State Education Allowance (DSSR 270).  This includes Foreign Service and those agencies that participate in ICASS. Employees should explore with their respective agency if there are any restrictions to accessing the Education Allowance.

The Bureau of Medicine’s (MED), Office of Child and Family Program (MED/MH/MHS/CFP or MED/CFP) determines eligibility and provides authorization for educationally required services to be reimbursed by SNEA. The specific eligibility and documentation requirements for authorizing the SNEA are covered in the DSSR 276 and 3 FAM 3280.


Reference: DSSR 271.m, DSSR 276.3, DSSR 276.8, 3 FAM 3283

SNEA is modeled after U.S. education law; specifically, Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.  The child’s educational disability must impact access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).  The benefit is available from birth until the child graduates from high school (or until the end of the school year that is in progress when the child reaches the age of 22), in accordance with IDEA 2004 (from birth) and Section 504 (from kindergarten).

SNEA is applied for annually. An employee may apply for SNEA funding when:

  • the child is eligible for the education allowance;
  • there is a known or suspected educational disability;
  • for school aged children:
    • identified educationally required services are at cost above the regular at post allowance
    • identified educationally required services are not available at post and the child is eligible for the SNEA away from post education allowance

Application Process

Reference 3 FAM 3283, 3 FAM 3286.4, DSSR 276.3

Application timeline:

Applications will follow the Northern hemisphere school year calendar. CFP will provide guidance to families with children enrolled in a school following the Southern hemisphere school year calendar. CFP will begin to review applications on 1 July for the upcoming school year and continue to accept and review SNEA requests until 31 December of the following school year.

For example, CFP began reviewing applications for the 2022-2023 school year on 1 July 2022 and will continue to accept and review applications for the 2022-2023 school year until 31 December 2023.

Application Considerations:

  • A SNEA application is only needed when educationally required services and supports require charges above the regular school tuition.Please do not submit a SNEA application until confirming that learning supports are at additional cost. This information may not be known until you are at post or once your child begins the school year.
  • Please contact to request an application. Applications are not available on the CFP sharepoint or website.
  • If educational needs were reviewed by CFP as part of the Medical Clearance process, a SNEA referral from the RMOP is not required
  • SNEA referral: required when educational needs are identified at post.
    • Contact Health Unit to request an appointment with the RMOP to complete a SNEA referral
    • Contact CFP with questions regarding the process
    • If an educational disability or diagnosis is identified as a result of supporting documentation submitted with a SNEA application and/or SNEA authorized evaluations/assessments, CFP will update the medical file and provide an educational clearance and if indicated, post approval recommendation to both the family and Medical Clearances.
  • Partial year SNEA authorization.
    • For those families that are arriving to a new post, or at the current post the school is delayed in developing a learning plan for the application school year, please notify CFP to determine the documentation that would be required for a partial year services SNEA cable eligibility review.
    • A partial year services SNEA cable will fund the regular school tuition for the entire school year, and educationally required services and supports for the beginning of the school year, which will allow the school time to develop a current learning plan.
  • SNEA away from post and educational consultants. Eligibility is to be confirmed when the CFP specialist team is completing a post approval recommendation for a Medical Clearance or Mental Health Medevac consult.

Application Steps:

Step 1) Schedule SNEA RMOP Referral if applicable

Step 2) Complete the application. Contact with questions regarding how to complete the application. If a service included on the learning plan, but the service provider and/or frequency/duration is to be determined, please include on the application

Step 3) Once documentation is available in the medical file, the CFP team will confirm status, services requested, and if additional information is needed prior to notifying the CFP specialist to review the SNEA request for eligibility.

Step 4) The CFP specialist will review the SNEA request and supporting documentation. If additional clarification is needed and/or once the review is complete, the CFP specialist will contact the family to confirm status and eligible services. If services are not eligible due to incomplete information, the CFP specialist will provide guidance of the documentation needed for a SNEA amendment review.

Step 5) Once the employee confirms the approved services, the CFP specialist will draft a SNEA authorization cable. Once released, the SNEA cable is sent to the employee’s government email address, RMOP and FMO at post.  A copy of the SNEA cable will be uploaded to the child’s electronic medical file.

Step 6) If all or some of the services requested for SNEA review are not approved, the CFP Specialist will inform parents of the appeal process. If the employee does not agree with the SNEA determination, then it is their right to appeal that decision through the SNEA Medical Review Panel (MRP) process.

Documentation Requirements

Reference: DSSR 271.m, DSSR 276.8, 3 FAM 3284

Documentation of Educational Disability/Disabilities:  known or suspected

Areas of educational disability include:

  1. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  2. Deaf-blindness
  3. Deafness
  4. Emotional Disturbance
  5. Hearing Impairment
  6. Intellectual disability
  7. Multiple disabilities
  8. Orthopedic impairment
  9. Other health impairment
  10. Specific learning disability (SLD)
  11. Speech or language impairment
  12. Traumatic brain injury
  13. Visual impairment, including blindness

Educational disability definitions can be found here:   34 CFR 300.8 (c) – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Examples of documentation to establish known/suspected educational disability/disabilities include:

  • school or medical provider referral or letter addressing observations/concerns
  • 504/IEP/IFSP eligibility document
  • Developmental assessments/ (i.e., pediatric developmental, speech language, occupational therapy, etc.)
  • Psychoeducational assessment, Neuropsychological assessment

Current Individualized Education Plan (IEP), Individualized Learning Plan (ILP), or equivalent

To be eligible for SNEA, a child must have a formal Individualized Learning Plan (ILP), Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or equivalent, prepared by a qualified educational or medical professional which outlines the specialized instruction and/or related services that are required to meet the child’s educational needs.  For children enrolled in school, the learning plan is to be developed in collaboration with the school staff and related service providers.  Required educational services requested for SNEA eligibility review are to be included in the IEP or equivalent.

The following is a list of required elements of the IEP, ILP or equivalent as defined by IDEA 2004:

  • Present levels of academic achievement and functional performance
  • How the disability affects the child’s involvement and performance in the curriculum
  • Description of measurable annual academic and functional goals as related to the child’s educational disability
  • Description of how the child’s progress towards meeting educational goals will be measured

Additional Learning Plan Documentation Requirements:

  • School and/or provider letterhead
  • School year, date of service implementation and projected review
  • Identification of service providers (i.e., by school or externally)
  • Frequency (# sessions/week, # days/week
  • Duration (# minutes/session or hours/day)
  • Signatures of parent/guardian(s), teachers, learning specialists and other providers as applicable
  • Original AND official English translation of educational documents (if applicable *SNEA eligible*)

Examples of equivalent learning plan documentation include: school documentation indicating collaboration with external service provider, speech language treatment plan, specialized educational instruction treatment plan, behavioral health treatment plan, occupational therapy treatment plan, etc. A child may have a learning plan from the school which includes all educationally required services, along with treatment plan(s) for services provided in collaboration with the school.

Submitting Documentation

Forward all documentation not previously submitted to Medical Records for prior SNEA applications or medical clearance updates in .pdf format to both the Child and Family Program and to Medical Records  This will prevent duplication in the record and prevent delays in uploading documentation into the medical file. Formats such as .zip and .jpg will not be uploaded and will delay processing.  Please contact CFP if you have questions regarding the information that is available in your child’s medical file.

Supporting documentation and information to submit as applicable:

(Note: additional information may be requested if needed to complete SNEA eligibility review.)

  1. Current learning plan or equivalent
  2. Most recent evaluations/assessment
  3. Most recent progress reports for school provided and related services (i.e, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy)
  4. Treatment plans for the application school year
  5. For services outside the school:
    1. proposed service provider name, credentials, and contact information
    2. School documentation addressing need to access required educational services outside the school due to unavailability of learning supports within the school AND confirming collaboration with the proposed service provider
  6. For assessments/evaluations:
    1. Proposed evaluator name, credentials, contact information, location, and proposed timeline of completion
    2. School documentation addressing learning support team/educator concerns, and need for assessments/evaluations
  7. For 1:1 Aide employed by employee/parent, Preschool, Extended School Year, and Educational Consultant services, contact CFP directly to receive individualized guidance

Please contact CFP for questions regarding documentation requirements and/or if there is a delay in obtaining required information. If a proposed evaluator/specialist is to be determined (TBD), this will not delay the review of the SNEA application for eligibility; however, the SNEA cable cannot be issued until this information is provided for CFP to review and approve.

Special Areas of Consideration

Private Individual Specialized Instruction: 3 FAM 3288.1 (5)

What was sometimes referred to as tutoring but should be more appropriately called specialized educational instruction for an identified educational disability, can be authorized through SNEA when included as an educationally required service on the learning plan. If the school notifies the parent the service is not available through the school, then the specialized instruction can be authorized for a provider outside the school who is to collaborate with the school’s learning support team.

*Tutoring to prevent failure or improve a grade may be covered through the Supplementary Instruction Allowance (DSSR 276.9) for dependent children of employees of some agencies when serving overseas and when properly documented by the school* Please inquire with your post FMO and/or respective agency for details.

Educational Consultants: 3 FAM 3288.1 (6) , DSSR 276.8

SNEA reimbursement of educational consultant services are specific to the identification of an away from post school when (1) a child is eligible for SNEA funding, (2) the post does not have the services and supports the child requires and (3) preauthorized by CFP; or Extended Year Services away from post, when (1) preauthorized by CFP as an eligible SNEA service and (2) unavailable at the assigned post. The SNEA cable for reimbursement will be released upon the employee’s arrival to the overseas post of assignment.  

Extended School Year:  3 FAM 3288.1 (7)

Extended School Year (ESY) services are an educationally required service provided during extended school breaks to those children who, because of their educational disabilities regress, losing previously learned basic skills, and/or require more time than their peers to regain those skills.  The need for ESY must be specifically documented as a required service in the child’s IEP, ILP or equivalent MED/CFP encourages families to submit a SNEA request to determine eligibility prior to incurring any ESY expense.

1:1 Instructional Aides: 3 FAM 3288.1 (8)

In-school Instructional Aides (Instructional Assistant, Aide, Para-Educator, Paraprofessional, Teacher’s Aide) will be covered by SNEA when the services are specified as required in the IEP/ILP and approved by MED/CFP. Hourly, 1:1 Aide direct services are eligible for SNEA funding. SNEA cannot fund travel expenses, lunch, holiday/sick leave, insurance, collaboration/consultation or other non-direct services.

CFP recommends that schools employ and provide supervision for the Instructional Aide because of potential liability and the necessity for the family to adhere to local labor laws, as well as vetting, child protection, collaboration, consultation, and training concerns.

Once the need for a 1:1 Aide is identified by the school, parents are strongly encouraged to contact MED/CFP to receive guidance. If the parent is required to employ the 1:1 Aide, then MED/CFP requests that the employee provide confirmation that a consultation with Post Management was completed to address local law requirements prior to entering into an employment contract with the Aide.

Psychoeducational Testing and Other Evaluations: 3 FAM 3288.1 (9, 10)

To include educationally required psychoeducational evaluations, pediatric developmental assessments, occupational therapy assessments, speech language assessments, etc.

MED/CFP encourages employees to be proactive and seek direction from our team if they anticipate an evaluation will be necessary for their child.  In many cases, it is also beneficial to discuss the possibility of any assessment/evaluation with the RMO/P, who may have additional information about local or regional resources or testing sites.

MED/CFP advises that families seek preapproval of educational assessments/evaluations before the service is initiated when a child has a suspected diagnosis that may be adversely impacting education or when a child has a known educational disability that requires updated evaluation, which in the U.S. is completed triennially.

The CFP preapproval is to ensure that an evaluation is eligible for reimbursement, is conducted by a qualified person, addresses the relevant questions, and provides recommendations about required education-related services that the school can then act on.

Required supporting documentation includes describing the purpose and necessity of the evaluation from the school and/or medical provider. Additional supporting documentation may be requested to complete the SNEA review.

Educational travel (DSSR 040m) from the post to the most reasonable point of where testing may be authorized when local credentialed evaluators are not available.

Preschool: 3 FAM 3288.1 (12)

Preschool is a SNEA eligible service when educationally required, due to an identified educational disability.  MED/CFP strongly recommends that families confirm preschool is a SNEA eligible service and review academic requirements/considerations with the CFP team prior to enrolling their child into a program. An IEP or equivalent is required. If the school is not able to provide the educationally required services, then the school is to collaborate with outside providers so that the child receives needed learning supports to access an education.

SNEA Reimbursements

3 FAM 3287.3

Employees are to follow their respective agency’s procedures for direct payment and/or reimbursement of SNEA eligible services.  Guidance is detailed on the SNEA authorization cable.

MED/CFP authorizes the SNEA to cover the costs of required assessments and appropriate follow-up services which are consistent with the DSSR. However, parents are responsible for the up-front costs of these assessments and services. To prevent delay in families recovering allowable expenses, reimbursement by the U.S. Government should precede any reimbursement recovered by insurance.

SNEA and Clearances

Any child who is given SNEA funding cannot retain a Class 1 Medical Clearance unless the funding is for the purposes of testing only. Once the testing results are available, CFP would then review and update the child’s medical record.

If during the SNEA application review by CFP, a child is found eligible for funding due to an educational disability, or if a new medical diagnosis is identified that is related to an educational or mental health need, the child’s medical file will be updated. CFP is required to notify Medical Clearances with an educational and/or mental health recommendation. This may result in a change in the child’s medical clearance status.

Appeals Process

Reference: 3 FAM 3289

Families have the right to appeal a SNEA decision. The employee is responsible to initiate the written appeal request to the SNEA Medical Review Panel Chair,

Deadline for requesting an appeal for a SNEA decision is 31 December of the year following the school year for which the employee/parent requested SNEA.

For example, the deadline to request an appeal for the 2021-2022 school year is 31 December 2023.

Additional information detailing the SNEA MRP panel members and process may be found in the FAM. Please contact with questions.

U.S. Department of State

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