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Tricare Cuts Hit Autism Families

Military ribbonsThis story will tear your heart out. Have you been affected? Tell us. Write to me and let me know if you want to share what's happening.

'A new low': TRICARE cuts services for children with autism, concerning military families

Rachael Riley
The Fayetteville Observer
In 2013, when her father returned from a third deployment, Mia Martin was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old.

Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that impairs normal brain development and ultimately cognitive function and social interaction.

Mia was enrolled in public school for a while.

Her days started at about 5 a.m. to catch a bus.

She’d sit in a classroom until about 1 p.m. then head off to therapy for four hours, ending her day at about 6 p.m.
James Martin and his daughter Mia are one of the military families impacted by the Defense Health Agency's decision to eliminate certain applied behavioral analysis services from classroom settings.

The 12-hour days were part of Mia’s routine for four years.

Mia’s father, Fort Bragg combat veteran James Martin, knew it took a toll on Mia.

The public classroom setting was too rigid.

“Even in a classroom of 15 kids with a special education teacher and an assistant, my daughter is quite the handful,” Martin said.

Mia couldn’t adapt.  Read more here.



The critique by Cohen is particularly incisive. DoD took a tool he created for analysis and then misused it to justify their own bad, predetermined conclusion.

One question I have is about this statement in the article: "According to a July news release from TRICARE, behavior technicians were reclassified as non-clinical, thus not covered by the insurance, and as a result, not accompanying children into the classroom."

Are there professionals whom TRICARE would view as "clinical," even if they were in a classroom setting? Or is it a matter of where the individuals are doing their work?

If it's the former, what titles do these people have? How long would it take for families to find them, and are there enough of them?

If it's the latter, then the place to lobby is probably state and federal lawmakers. If a behavior technician is not covered by insurance, then school districts ought to be paying for the services instead. The child needs this professional in order to learn. If state and federal lawmakers see that this is going to affect local property taxpayers, maybe they'll push for changes to the DoD rule. There must be some recourse.

I'm just thinking out loud here... No politician is going to fix the situation because they care about these children, but someone might be motivated to restore coverage in order to keep property taxes from going up. TRICARE should take care of military families. Maybe public hearings would embarrass them into doing so.

None of this, of course, is meant to ignore the very real issue pointed out by Alison, which is that regardless of who pays, the costs of autism are increasing.


The elephant in the room: the astonishingly high rate of autism in children of military personnel.


Great journalism in the Fayetteville Observer by Rachael Riley.

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