Military Family Fights For Better Autism Coverage
A retired airman who dedicated 21 years to the United States Air Force is denied medical coverage for his autisitc five-year-old daughter.
Sara Bryan was diagnosed with autism at age four. The news was devastating to her parents, Jeff Bryan and his wife, Lisa.
?I was stunned. You know, it was in the back of my mind that it was a possibility, but hearing it and knowing it was real, was shocking,? said Lisa Bryan.
Even more shocking was when Lisa realized her insurance, TRICARE, wouldn?t cover treatment.
?It?s heartbreaking and that?s no way for us to be treating our soldiers who are over there keeping us free,? she said.
Currently, TRICARE provides limited autism treatment for active duty military personnel. Those who retire after 20 years and those who were wounded and forced to medically retire, are not eligible for autism treatments or therapies, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), for their child.
ABA is a behavioral health treatment that has shown to be effective in improving outcomes for children with autism.
Sara?s development pediatrician recommended 25 to 40 hours a week of ABA.
?Children who were treated with ABA before age 6 had the best chance of reaching their potential. I read how the kids who had early intervention with Applied Behavior Analysis had the opportunity to become independent and productive citizens,? said Lisa.
Sara?s parents can only afford three to four hours of therapy a week.
?That?s costing us $1,300 a month. We?re cutting back (on our) budget and sacrificing every week to save as much as we can to pay for Sara?s therapy,? said Lisa.
Along with ABA therapy, Sara attends music therapy, which is also not covered by TRICARE.
?For autism, there?s research that shows its effective in helping with communication, social skills and behaviors,? said neurological music therapist, Kate St. John.
St. John, founder of NeuroRhythm, uses instruments to help Sara communicate.
?She might think she?s just playing and having fun, but in the back of my mind, I know I?m working on functional therapeutic goals for her,? said St. John.
St. John has only seen Sara three times and can already see improvement. Sara?s mom said it?s amazing how well she is doing with limited therapy hours.
?I can only imagine, if she?s doing three to four hours a week, how much she would excel at the doctor?s prescribed 25 hours a week,? said Lisa.
The Bryans are among thousands of parents nationwide pushing for the Caring of Military Kids with Autism Act (CMKAA).
The bill would clarify that military dependents with autism have access to medically necessary behavioral health treatments such as ABA through TRICARE.
A Connecticut family began the push for expanded autism coverage by contacting Rep. John Larson, D-Conn.
The bill was introduced on June 23, 2011.
On May 17, Congressman Larson took to the House floor and made the case for CMKAA to be included as an amendment to the FY2013 NDAA.
A week later, the Bryans found out the amendment failed.
A special hearing is scheduled this week, if the house approves, it will go to the Senate.
According to the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, there are 23,000 military children who have been diagnosed with autism.
For more information on CMKAA, Click here to go to CMKAA.org
For more information on Autism Speaks Initiative, Click here to go to AutismVotes.org
For more information on Music Therapy, Click here to go to NeuroRhythm.com
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