SNEA: What is it and Does it Affect You

The Special Needs Education Allowance (SNEA) is designed to enable children with special needs posted abroad with their State Department families to approximate the same education advantages they would have if they were in the States.

The child must have a Class 2 Medical Clearance and have at least a provisional acceptance at a school in the country where the parent anticipates being posted. It is up to the parent to research the education facilities at the posts and to ensure that the school can accommodate the needs of the child. The Office of Overseas Schools maintains a list of posts and schools which may be relevant. The country CLO may also be a resource.  Facebook and affinity groups may also be able to provide valuable information.

Once a school is identified the parent applies to the Bureau of Medical Services (MED) with all the documentation of the child’s needs and that there is a school at post which can provide for this and has provisionally accepted the child. The school must also send documentation that it can meet those accommodations. MED will then issue the clearance.

SNEA is the allowance to cover those needs. It is issued annually and is in lieu of the education allowance.  In other words, it covers tuition plus any extra services. It is based on the Individual Learning Plan (ILP) or its equivalent and the services within the plan. Generally it will not cover services not offered in the States.

Parents are required to pay the upfront costs of assessments and services and then provide all the documentation, including itemized receipts to the FMO at post. In November, State announced a collaboration between MED and the Bureau of the Comptroller and Global Financial Services (CGFS) to provide a new system for processing SNEA reimbursements. The employee uses the E2 (Local Travel) voucher process to upload their documentation. This goes to the CGFS, which sends it to Child and Family Program officers in MED. They review, approve it and send it back to CGFS for payment. This plan was rolled out in October in EUR/IO and was successful. It will be implemented in the other Bureaus and is anticipated to be completed by next spring.

In June 2019 a new FAM section was published with revisions to SNEA which expands the services which are allowed and aims for more flexibility. Beginning with the 2020 summer bidding cycle it also includes changes to simplify bidding. These can be found in 3 FAM 3280.

Some other resources are:, and FSSpecialNeeds email group which is now a subgroup of AAFSW’s Livelines on Contact to join Livelines, the flagship email-based group for the Foreign Service community.

Ann La Porta