News Releases

1 Page Summary

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which would ensure that military families’ health plans provide adequate coverage for children and loved ones with disabilities.  The amendment requires TRICARE, the Department of Defense health program for members of the military and their families, to provide coverage for behavioral health treatments, including applied behavior analysis (ABA).   

Under current TRICARE policies, many children are denied coverage for ABA and critical behavioral health treatments, and those children who do receive care often receive less than the prescribed treatment.  That places TRICARE behind the curve of thirty-four states and the District of Columbia, which require private insurers to cover ABA as a medically necessary service for most children with a developmental disability.  The U.S. Office of Personnel Management also categorizes ABA as a "medical therapy” and covers ABA for federal employees’ dependents.

A one-page summary of the legislation is available here.

“Every parent of a child with a disability wants to do everything they can to provide the best care, but for military parents dealing with overseas deployments and frequent moves from state to state, the challenge to access quality care is even greater,” said Senator Murray. “The least we can do for our service men and women is provide quality health care for their loved ones, and this amendment ensures that promise extends to children with disabilities, too.”

“It is alarming that our military families who have sacrificed so much are denied essential services for their children suffering from autism and other developmental disabilities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This legislation will help ensure that our military families have access to the critical services, care and support they desperately need and deserve.”

Behavioral health treatments for children with developmental disabilities are widely recognized as effective therapies that can help children learn the skills to be successful in school, live independently, and find meaningful employment.  However, despite the widely-recognized benefits of these treatments, they are not always available for families who receive their health care through TRICARE.  The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Institute of Mental Health support behavioral health parity so that evidence based therapies can be accessed by children and youth with developmental disabilities. This includes systematic application of ABA for children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities.

Organizations supporting the Murray-Gillibrand amendment include:

Military Officers Association of America, National Military Family Association, Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service, VetsFirst, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Autism Speaks, Easter Seals, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, The Arc, Autism National Committee, National Down Syndrome Society, ACCSES, ADHD Aware, American Dance Therapy Association, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, American Association on Health and Disability, Brain Injury Association of America, Epilepsy Foundation, Family Voices, Health & Disability Advocates, Lutheran Services in America Disability Network, Mental Health America, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, National Organization on Disability, National Council on Independent Living, Physician-Parent Caregivers, and School Social Work Association of America.