caring for military kids with autism

Dear Readers,

I have so many stories that I’m dying to share with you. Big stories. Well, you know – our kind of big stories – the ones about small moments that were really anything but.

But the stories are going to have to wait. Because there’s something happening in our back yard that is simply not OK. And it’s something that WE can help begin to fix.


My dear friend, Rachel, an Army wife and mother of a child with autism, has worked tirelessly to introduce a bill into Congress called the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act. (CMKAA / H.R. 2288)

1 in 88 military children has autism, and less than 10% of those are getting the services they need.

Less than 10%. 

CMKAA will make ABA available to ALL military dependents with autism – active duty OR retired. It’s a start. Ed note: Autistic children of retired servicemen and women are not currently covered under Tricare. So a soldier who has served his or her nation in battle – three or four tours of duty later – does not have the ability to care for his or her child after retirement. Take a moment to chew on that. 

H.R. 2288 is currently sitting in the House Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C. It will die there unless it finds enough support to be brought for a vote.

I implore you to take one minute out of your day to urge your representatives in congress to support this bill.

Please click on the links below to contact your state’s representatives and senators. You don’t even have to figure out what to say; you can simply copy the text that I’ve written below.

This is so important, my friends.

Imagine fighting tooth and nail for your child all while your spouse is a world away fighting for our country. It’s unthinkable.

The situation can change, but it won’t happen without US. We can wait for the hoofbeats, but in the end WE are the cavalry. It literally takes one minute to make a difference. The people who sacrifice so much in the name of duty deserve at least that. 

Thank you so much for your support.



P.S. If you’re interested in joining Team CMKAA (I made that up, but it’s kinda catchy, don’t you think?) and helping us get the word out as we move forward, please leave a comment letting me know and Rachel or I will be in touch.

In the meantime, please share this post with everyone you know. Heck, share it with people you don’t know. Use the buttons below to Tweet it (please use hash tag #CMKAA), link to it on Facebook, or share it via e-mail.

Send it to your networks – your family, your friends, your PTO, your church, synagogue or mosque, your local, state and federal advocacy groups – send it to anyone you can think of who would be willing to take one minute of their time to help care for the people who take care of us every day. 

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Copy of the bill

ACT Today for Military Families with Autism

Why this matters to me


Here’s what I wrote to my representatives. Please feel free to copy it. Just click on the links below and then cut and paste. It’s that easy.

(Name of Addressee),

I am writing to implore you to lend your support to the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act – H.R. 2288: To amend title 10, United States Code, to provide for certain treatment of autism to the children of both active and retired servicemen and women because it is simply unconscionable to me to fail to provide vital support to the children of our nation’s heroes.  

Access to appropriate treatment and services for autism is not an entitlement; it is a basic right. While this should be true for ALL of our nation’s children, it simply MUST be true for our military. An America that forces her soldiers’ families to fight on two fronts is not the America I know and love. 

Please, on behalf of those who sacrifice so much to keep us safe, lend your support so that H.R. 2288 can become a reality.

Thank you for all that you do on behalf of our families.

Your name


Your Representatives

Your Senators

41 thoughts on “caring for military kids with autism

  1. This is fantastic, Jess! Bills do not pass themselves and Congress does not pass legislation because they feel like it. Our nation must come together and call for this action on behalf of our military families – because um, they are a little busy these days, too, and could use your voice!

    Thank you, Jess.

    Please do speak up if you are interested in gathering up support and become a hero to our bravest men and women who answer your call for freedom each day.

    Thank you.


  2. Done – to both senators and my representative. As you know, I work for a federall subsidized children’s health insurance program and it does not cover autism therapies (speaking just for “me” here – I am not their official spokesperson). It breaks my heart every single time I have to explain that to a family who has a child with autism. Thank you for your efforts in relation to this. I am in your corner.

  3. Done – Also I would love to lend a hand in my community in getting the word out. I live near a large base and have a lot of military servicemen/women as my customers. I also have several contacts within the community who are able to spread the word easily as well. Please let me know what I can do to help beyond social media 🙂

  4. I tried to email my state’s representative on the House Armed Services committee, but it says it wouldn’t let me because I’m not in her district. Did anyone else run into this problem? Is there a backdoor around this I don’t know about?

    • YES!!

      Just google her name – every congressperson has a website with contact information on it – a direct e-mail address and congressional office phone number. Go get her, girl.

      THANK YOU!!!

  5. Pingback: 1 in 88 « The Roc Chronicles

  6. Thanks for the letting us copy the text – very handy and well said. Messages have been sent. Looking forward to the update that tells us this bill gets passed!

  7. Jess–

    I sent a message to my congressman and senators, but as you move forward with this you may want to tailor the message a bit. The request is couched in terms of what is right for the families which is a good emotional hook, but Congress needs to know what this does to benefit the military as a whole–reduces turnover of military personnel, less compassionate leave–or reduces other costs–less drug prescriptions (which are covered), less administrative appeals, etc– to convince. While politicians speeches are often about what is right, their actual reasoning tends to be more practical and economic. Let me know if I can help.

    • Rebecca – great point, and one that can be addressed.

      Largely, autism IS a readiness issue for many military families. The financial strain on a family paying out-of-pocket for care jeopardizes that soldier’s ability to retain security clearances and the inability to provide appropriate family care plans because of autism leaves many soldiers with the decision to leave the military all together.

      Cost is an easy arguement, and one that has seen 27 states now pass insurance reform – pay now for intensive intervention, or pay billions more as these kids grow older and require more care.

      Thank you for your valuable insight! Please keep in touch.


      • I also e-mailed the Delaware Autism Society’s committee chair for advocacy and legislation to ask that the bill be listed on the advocacy page and the Autism Society support the bill. For a small state Delaware has a large military contingent at Dover Air Force Base. Let me know if you have talking points or other information I can pass on as well.

  8. I sent copies of your very well written letter to both of my senators. I will be glad to do it again and again and again and…well, you get the picture! Please let me know if there is anything else I can do.

  9. I am so sick of ALL insurance company’s doing this to Americans.. It is morally wrong on all levels especially to do this to the men and women who serve.

  10. Done. And I reposted on of stimcity’s posts on this. My husband is a reservist in the military but has a civilian job so we are lucky enough to have good medical insurance. This is so important for our military families!

  11. If I might add, Jess, in regards to Rebecca’s comments above and to share with your readers…

    I have spoken personally to members of Congress regarding this issue. Truthfully what will get them all to support this bill is not the cost, the readiness issues, etc. (although those are important political perspectives, too) – it will take the voice of their constituents demanding that our military be treated better. Simple as that. Look at the huge strides in veteran care because of public outcry against the conditions our wounded warriors were living in after selflessly serving their country.

    This bill needs similar attention and action by us, thereby recruiting media attention, and ultimately the politicians will have no other choice but to answer the call.


  12. Per Jess’ request:

    Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act
    How it Benefits Our Military families

    · Autism is a complex neurological disorder, and is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the United States.
    · Data from the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs indicate that 1 in 88 active duty military children is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Combined with retiree dependents, there are 22,000 military kids with autism – and those numbers are TRICARE-driven, reflecting only those who were seen a minimum of 3 visits to a TRICARE provider using an autism diagnostic code. (It is estimated the numbers are much higher.)
    · In treatment of an ASD, early intervention and intensive behavioral therapy, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), are imperative to success.
    · Families impacted by autism suffer tremendous emotional and financial strains. Their quality of life and readiness are compromised by the lack of services and support provided by existing TRICARE programs.
    · Currently TRICARE segregates ABA treatment into a separate arm of TRICARE called the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO). ECHO is a secondary enrollment after a child is enrolled in the Exceptional Family Members Program (EFMP) and is only available for dependents of active-duty service members. These enrollment procedures often take months to years to complete.
    · The ECHO Program categorizes ABA therapy as a special education service. This places a financial cap of $36,000 per year on a military child’s ABA treatment program, which pays for an average of 11 hours of ABA therapy per week. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Navy and Army Surgeons General recommend a minimum of 25-40 hours per week of ABA therapy.
    · Without TRICARE Standard covering ABA treatment, military families impacted by Autism are left to depend on state-funded care and their school districts to provide therapies. Limited certified ABA providers and current educational budget constraints, leave families choosing to pay for medically prescribed treatments out-of-pocket and/or hire special education attorneys to fight for better services at school, incurring significant debt and placing them at financial risk. OR – the child simply does not receive these treatments at all.
    · Every time a military family moves, they begin the process of securing therapies all over again. They are often wait-listed for state aid, and must begin the IEP process from scratch in their new school district.
    · Coverage of ABA and other behavioral health treatments in the civilian sector exceed that of TRICARE.
    · Public policy on this issue has developed at a tremendous rate leaving the military child behind the curve. Currently, 27 states have passed laws which require private insurers to cover autism-related therapies. Unfortunately both state and federal laws such as this do not extend to TRICARE and fail the military child with an ASD. Public policy has now exceeded that of TRICARE.
    · Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act (H.R. 2288) will amend TRICARE policy to provide ABA and other intensive behavioral intervention services in line with 25-40 hours per week as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Navy and Army Surgeons General.
    · Making ABA therapy a basic entitlement under TRICARE Standard for eligible dependants (both active duty and retiree) is essential to supporting military families.
    · The assurance of family care is critical for mission readiness.
    · Our military families deserve the quality of care that is equal to their heroic service and sacrifice in defense of our Nation, our people, and our freedom.

    • CMKAA removes ABA from ECHO, placing it under TRICARE Standard as medically necessary – removing the dollar cap on care, as well as becoming accessible to all eligible retiree dependents as well.

  13. thanks so much for the info and links. it’s frustrating that we have to push so hard for something so necessary. these guys deserve all the help and support they can get.

  14. Let me know what I can do…my neck of the woods in AL is largely populated by military folk, so I’m sure this is something important for them. I’d love to do more than just emailing my elected officials (though one did email me back…)

  15. Jess you are amazing!! As is everyone who is writing the letters to get things to change.. I would join in .. but I live in the UK!! Well done everyone and lets hope change happens (and quickly!). x

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