NEW YORK (May 17, 2012) -- Autism Speaks, the nation’s leading autism advocacy and science organization, today hailed the U.S. House of Representatives for approving a bipartisan amendment that would assure all Department of Defense members of the military, regardless of their duty status, receive autism insurance benefits for their dependents.
The vote came on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was sponsored by Representative John Larson of Connecticut. Congressman Larson's amendment clarifies that coverage under TRICARE, the Department of Defense insurance program, should include medically necessary behavioral health treatments for autism, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). It also removes dollar limitations on ABA care and works to provide coverage for all TRICARE eligible dependents with autism regardless of their sponsor's duty status.
Under the current system, military members lose their autism insurance benefits when they retire, even when medically retired as a result of being wounded in action. Military members have said they have re-enlisted and been redeployed to combat zones specifically to maintain autism coverage for their children. This amendment improves ABA coverage for Department of Defense armed service branches including Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.
"Congressman Larson took to heart the cause of military kids with autism and has now delivered legislation that will make a real difference in the lives of military families,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. “We salute his commitment to end the injustice of military members losing their autism insurance benefits, especially those who have been wounded in action. We also thank House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon of California and the committee's Ranking Member, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, for their support for this amendment.”
Larson’s amendment incorporates many of the changes proposed through HR.2288, the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act, which he sponsored with Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina. The legislation attracted 70 co-sponsors. During his floor remarks, Larson cited the difficulties experienced by a military couple from his Connecticut district, Rachel and William Kenyon, whose daughter has autism.
Action on the NDAA after House approval moves next to the Senate.