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House Approves Better Access to ABA For Military Kids

May 22, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC (May 22, 2014) -- The U.S. House of Representatives today approved a new Defense budget which includes a requirement that TRICARE dramatically improve access to applied behavior analysis (ABA) for all military children with developmental disabilities. Action moves next to the Senate.

The TRICARE amendment to the National Defense Appropriations Act for FY 2015 would provide access to ABA for all children with developmental disabilities, improve coverage to address medically recommended treatment levels, and allow for coverage of the ABA tiered-service delivery model which includes Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts and ABA Technicians.

The amendment is virtually identical to the Caring for Military Children with Developmental Disabilities Act sponsored by Reps. John Larson (D-CT) and Tom Rooney (R-FL). A companion measure in the Senate is sponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).  

“The House stood up for military families today- moving us one step closer to ensuring that children with developmental disabilities covered by TRICARE have access to the care they deserve,” said Larson. “The bottom line is that this is the right thing to do.

"We must be doing everything we can to ensure that those who have sacrificed so much for our nation have the peace of mind that their children will be able to access the care they need," he said.

“Families across the country face incredible challenges in raising children with development disabilities,” said Rooney. “I’ve seen this firsthand with my two nephews. For our military families, these challenges can be particularly daunting. Passing this amendment helps ensure that the children of our troops and military retirees have access to the health care services they need.”

Similar legislation cleared both houses of Congress in 2012, but the measure was watered down in conference committee to a one-year pilot program. Launched last summer, the program has been problematic and has served very few children.

Including the pilot, TRICARE now has three different programs delivering ABA services in three different ways, but none of them are permanent. TRICARE has reported to Congress it plans to consolidate the three programs into a new demonstration which would also be temporary. The Larson/Rooney amendment works to make ABA coverage a permanent medical benefit under TRICARE.