I am a member of the bipartisan Autism Caucus, which works to enact federal legislation and ensure adequate support for federal programs that support and benefit individuals and families affected by autism.
I have supported funding for critical autism activities in the department of Health and Human Services. Specifically, I called for support for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct its Developmental Disabilities Surveillance and Research program; for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to carry out autism education, early detection, and intervention programs; and for the Secretary to expand research of autism spectrum disorders and to fund and review autism centers of excellence.
I also supported the Department of Defense's (DoD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program on Autism. Based on current prevalence rates, as many as 12,000 children in military families may have autism. These families are dramatically affected by the financial and emotional costs of raising a child with autism and care for these dependents is a significant direct cost to the DoD.
I was a cosponsor of the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) of 2011 which was signed into law on December 23, 2011 (Public Law No: 112-74). CARA reauthorizes and strengthens the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (CAA), of which I was also a cosponsor. Most significantly, the CAA expanded and coordinated autism research at the National Institutes of Health, increased services, diagnosis and treatment for individuals with autism, and enhanced surveillance and awareness efforts at the Centers for Disease Control. The legislation also established the Autism Coordinating Committee to coordinate autism related activities within the Department.
I am an original cosponsor of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (H.R. 647). The ABLE Act is an important piece of legislation that would establish tax-exempt ABLE accounts for persons with disabilities to help them pay certain expenses such as education, housing, transportation, employment support, medical care, and other life necessities. In addition, this will allow individual taxpayers to take a deduction of up to $2,000 per year for contributions to an ABLE account. This legislation will be a significant help to families of children with autism, as well as other physical and intellectual disabilities.
I also support the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act. Currently, there are significant barriers to treatment for military families that have a child with autism. This bill would clarify existing law to ensure that children with autism have access to necessary behavioral health treatment through TRICARE.