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TRICARE Retreats On Planned ABA Cuts for Military Kids

July 18, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC (July 18, 2013) -- The Department of Defense announced today its new restrictions on applied behavior analysis (ABA) for the nation's 23,000 military kids with autism will not be applied to active duty members covered under the ECHO program or TRICARE Basic. The changes will apply only to a pilot program for the families of non-active and retired personnel.

The proposed changes, scheduled to take effect July 25, aroused a storm of protest from military families and led U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) to demand answers from the Pentagon.

The proposed policy changes would have required parents to arrange standardized testing every six months for their children in order to continue receiving care, and demonstrate "measurable progress." Continued care after two years of therapy and after age 16 would require a waiver, and new discharge criteria would be put in place.

"Beginning July 25, 2013, the Department is greatly expanding services available to non-active duty family members with introduction of the ABA Pilot," TRICARE announced. "The pilot will provide non-active duty family members, including retirees, with access to additional areas of ABA reinforcement."

TRICARE was ordered by Congress last year to start the ABA pilot program within 90 days, but the launch has been delayed for months.

"There are no changes in the TRICARE Basic program or the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) Autism Services Demonstration providing ABA to active duty family members," the DoD announced.

Earlier this week, a U.S. Air Force senior master sergeant asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at Fort Bragg, NC, about the policy changes. See the exchange below: