In a huge victory for military families struggling with autism, the annual defense budget that was passed by the House of Representatives today includes an important provision authored by Congressman John B. Larson (CT-01) that will ensure that TRICARE -- the military healthcare program -- fully covers the treatments that military kids with autism need.
Larson's measure, the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act (H.R. 2288), which had 70 bipartisan cosponsors, was written in response to the appeal of a constituent -- Rachel Kenyon, the wife of Sergeant Major William Kenyon of the Connecticut National Guard and mother of two -- who spoke out at an event about the many struggles that military families with children with autism face with their TRICARE coverage.
"Today, the House of Representatives affirmed its commitment that just as we leave no soldier behind, we leave no military family behind either," Larson said. "This would not have happened without the determination and strength of Rachel and the thousands of parents just like her fighting every day for their kids. With this action in the House today, we did right by Rachel and her family, as well as military families across the country by honoring their sacrifices by making sure they do not face barriers in access to care for their children that have an autism diagnosis."
"I want to thank Representative Walter Jones, who was the lead sponsor on the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act; Chairman McKeon and Ranking Member Smith, and all of the cosponsors of the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act on both sides of the aisle for their efforts to make this happen," Larson added.
Specifically, the language included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) will ensure that the children of Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps members that have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis will no longer face caps in TRICARE on a behavioral health treatment, known as applied behavior analysis. It would also ensure that the children of military retirees that have an ASD diagnosis would have access to applied behavior analysis treatment.
Congressman Larson voted for final passage of the NDAA, although he had some concerns with other provisions included in the bill.
"While I am concerned with some of the other provisions of this legislation, I voted for final passage because passing this bill was the right thing to do to move the process forward, and I am confident that many of the differences can be addressed when the bill is considered in conference."
The legislation must now be approved by the Senate before it can become law.