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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Help for Military Families

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. As many posts have discussed, the challenges are especially great for military families.

A news release from Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL):
The U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment to the FY 2017 Defense Appropriations Act sponsored by Representatives Tom Rooney (FL-17), John B. Larson (CT-01) and Chris Smith (NJ-04) that will provide increased assistance to military families who have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

“Having a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) shouldn’t make it harder for you to serve in the military,” Rooney said. “This amendment is a commonsense adjustment in policy that never should have been changed in the first place. We need to ensure that our service members and veterans have the tools to raise their families and give back to them a small fraction of what they have sacrificed for this country.”

In December 2015, the Defense Health Agency (DHA) announced cuts to reimbursement rates for applied behavior analysis (ABA) services – a widely recognized treatment program for children with ASD that is already covered by a majority of private insurers in most regions of the country. Since becoming effective in April, these cuts have resulted in many areas with military facilities facing shortages of ABA therapy providers.

Further, the enactment of these cuts came in the middle of the DHA’s Comprehensive Autism Care Demonstration; a demonstration program on ABA services set to run through December 2018. Consequently, these ill-timed cuts would skew the strong analytical analysis of ABA services the Demonstration was expected to yield.
The bipartisan Rooney-Larson-Smith Amendment would restore ABA reimbursement rates, a provision already authorized by a similar amendment offered by the group to the FY 2017 NDAA (H.R. 4909), which was adopted by voice vote on the House floor. Once the cuts have been rolled back, rates will not be allowed to increase or decrease until the conclusion of the Autism Care Demonstration in 2018.
From Rep. Larson :
“With everything our servicemembers and their families give to our country, we should not hesitate to provide the care they need in return,” said Larson. “Every military family makes sacrifices, but they should never be asked to sacrifice the health and wellbeing of their children. I was extremely proud to work with Reps. Rooney and Smith on this effort. They have been great champions for our military families.”

Larson has won several bipartisan victories to make ABA a permanent benefit in TRICARE. Last month, Larson’s amendment passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Today’s victory ensures the measure is funded so military families receive the help they need.