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Public Statements

Department Of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. GILLIBRAND. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about an amendment which I had offered which was not included in the managers' package. It has passed in the House. It is about the issue of autism.

We have a significant issue with regard to autism in the military. The autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in every 150 American children, 1 in every 90 boys, more than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. A new case of autism is diagnosed every 20 minutes, making it the fastest growing serious developmental condition in the United States. And if this continues, autism could reach 4 million Americans in the next 10 years.

In the military, autism is even more prevalent. There are currently over 13,000 children of Active-Duty servicemembers with autism. Representing about 1 percent of the Nation's total population, military families understand all too well the financial impact and the emotional burden of this disorder. Despite this, the Department of Defense has been unable to adequately provide autism therapy services to their families.

Currently, autism treatment is subject to a monthly cap under the health insurance system, TRICARE. It also has a very burdensome application process, which can delay critical care for our military families. My amendment is designed to change this, to make sure this cap no longer applies so that these military families have access to the care their children need.

One example. One family's son, Taylor, has autism, and he is 7 years old. They are dependent on the TRICARE autism treatment because his IQ is at 73, and the cutoff for the New York State program is 70. So they budget about $500 extra out of pocket per month to pay for Taylor's therapy. But it is far less than Taylor actually needs to achieve his potential.

So what we are hoping to do is ultimately make sure that children who have autism, whose mothers or fathers are serving in the military will have access to the number of hours of treatment doctors recommend. We hope that through these efforts, down the line we can begin to provide these resources for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day for our country.

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