At the hearing, Dr. Vera Tait, Associate Executive Director of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Dr. Geraldine Dawson, Chief Science Officer for Autism Speaks, both strongly asserted ABA as a critical medical treatment, citing decades of peer-reviewed scientific studies. Dr. Dawson concluded, "This is not a matter for further study. Action is needed to provide the quality of care our military families deserve and have earned."
Contrary to the DoD's position, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently concluded, "There is now sufficient evidence to categorize ABA as medical therapy." This was welcomed news for millions of federal employees and offered renewed hope for military families seeking the same. However, at the Senate hearing on Thursday, OPM Director of Healthcare and Insurance, John O'Brien, seemed to backpedal, stating that just because OPM classified ABA as "medical therapy" didn't mean that it was "medically necessary." It was a slap in the face to our military families as OPM seemed to be attempting to provide cover for the DoD. At a time when the White House and the First Lady's initiative, Joining Forces, have consistently opened their arms to military families, it is ironic that two executive branch agencies simultaneously deny our military children the prescribed medical treatments they need.
So why are thousands of military families still being denied ABA?
Because TRICARE is subscribing to outdated, unscientific reports from an online database to argue that ABA is not their responsibility. A United States District Court in Florida rejected the same ABA report that TRICARE relied upon (the Hayes Report), when it ordered Florida's Medicaid program to include ABA as a medical treatment for autism. This is not news to the Berges, a retired military family who filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court of D.C. on behalf of military families. Sadly, TRICARE and DoD would rather defend their practices in federal court than ensure military dependents receive the care they need.