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Saturday, April 16, 2022

Autism Families Take Offense at TRICARE

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.

Maggie BenZvi at Coffee or Die:
On April 8, the Facebook page for TRICARE, the government health care program that provides medical insurance for military service members and retirees, posted a message regarding April’s status as a month for awareness and acceptance of autistic people.

“April is #AutismAcceptanceMonth!” the post read. “We can all work to make room for more inclusivity and tolerance with just a little patience, understanding, and education.”

For Holly Duncan, the post was a stab in the heart.

“I don’t ‘tolerate’ my kids,” Duncan told Coffee or Die Magazine in the days after the post went up. “I don’t ‘tolerate’ their autism. I learned to live in their world.”


TRICARE is not just some corporate PR department looking for clicks. Rather, as demonstrated by the hundreds of responses to the post and according to parents who spoke to Coffee or Die, TRICARE has failed to deliver needed help to their families.

The reaction to TRICARE’s Facebook post was instant and outraged: scores of military parents who say they have spent hours or even years fighting with TRICARE to get appropriate therapy services covered for their children.

Hundreds of comments quickly piled up on the post.

“Oh, look, useless virtue signaling as they cover less for families. Thanks, TriCare,” wrote a user named Rachel Dawn.

“What a slap in the face #TRICARE with this post!” Kira Barrett-Voelker commented.

“Whoever marketed this mess is an embarrassment,” wrote Kristin Borg.

Duncan, along with Jennifer Bittner, co-chairs the Autism Family Advocacy Committee for Exceptional Families of the Military.

Both women are military spouses, both have two children on the autism spectrum, and both are dismayed by recent TRICARE changes that make receiving those therapies even more difficult.