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Autism Speaks Salutes Advocate Jeremy Hilton on Winning 2012 Military Spouse of the Year

May 11, 2012

See Jeremy and Renae Hilton on The View

NEW YORK, NY (May 11, 2012) – Autism Speaks, the nation's leading autism science and advocacy organization, today saluted autism advocate Jeremy Hilton on being named 2012 “Military Spouse of the Year” after winning a competition hosted by Military Spouse magazine.

An Air Force Academy graduate and former Navy officer, Hilton was nominated for the award by his wife U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Renae Hilton. They are the parents of two children, including a daughter who is on the autism spectrum. You can view his award acceptance here.

Hilton has advocated for better autism care for dependents of military members and spoke at a January 31 Congressional briefing on the need to improve autism coverage under TRICARE, the Department of Defense insurance program.

“Smart disability policy isn’t only the right thing to do…it can have a significant short and long term impact on both our force’s readiness and our families,” Hilton said. “Short-term thinking and budgeting will in fact have significant long-term cost, whether we are talking about the rehabilitation of a young airman with traumatic brain injury or a child with cerebral palsy.”

Hilton urged Congress at the briefing to support HR.2288, the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act which would ensure all members of the military, regardless of whether they are on active duty or retired, receive coverage for their dependents in need of autism treatment through TRICARE. Benefits now are limited to active duty personnel and max out at $36,000 per year.

“Our story is like that of so many other military families,” Hilton said at the briefing. “Thousands of our military children are missing vitally important windows of opportunity due to their parent’s military service. Then, after the parent retires, we remove a therapy that is helping them become productive members of society.

“In what world does that make any sense?” he asked.

The award was presented by Mrs. Deanie Dempsey, spouse of Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is the first male spouse to win the award.

Hilton was one of hundreds of spouses nominated for the award. From that pool, one winner was chosen from each branch of service, including the National Guard for the first time. Hilton was selected Air Force Spouse of the Year and then took overall honors.