Sgt. Maj. William Kenyon of Manchester is an active-duty veteran of Desert Storm — the early-1990s conflict in Iraq — as well as two tours in Afghanistan. His wife, Rachel, is fighting within the military for better autism coverage through the armed forces' health insurance program, TRICARE.
"Having served 25 years in the infantry so far, he has seen it all, been there and done that, but when autism came knocking on our door, no uniform, no arsenal, no commendation medals could have prepared us for the fight ahead," Rachel Kenyon said of her husband. "Not a fight against autism, but a fight to secure the medical treatments our daughter with autism needed."
Rachel Kenyon brought the issue to the attention of U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, D-1st District, who then sponsored legislation to expand autism services for active and retired members of the military and the family members covered by their insurance. The legislation is part of a military spending bill for fiscal year 2013 that passed the U.S. House and now faces the Senate as Congress takes on broader issues of how much to spend on defense and setting the nation's budget during a presidential election year.
Applied behavior analysis is covered by TRICARE's Extended Care Health Options (ECHO) up to a total of $36,000 a year for a military family. The portion a family has to pay ranges from $25 to $250 per month, with low-ranking enlisted members paying less and high-ranking officers paying the most.
The $36,000 limit doesn't include the amount TRICARE will pay for home health care, too.
The trouble is, $36,000 pays for an average 11 hours weekly of applied behavior analysis for a child with autism when the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Academy of Sciences recommends 25 to 40 hours of treatment, Rachel Kenyon said.
Also, the services aren't covered for military retirees, including those who are forced into retirement because they were injured in war, Kenyon said.
"I was certainly aware of autism . . . but I was unaware of the enormous gap that existed in our TRICARE system," Larson said.WTNH in Hartford reports: