Wow, if you Google “Military Programs and Autism” you will most likely get about 3,140,000 hits, that is a lot of articles to read through if you are a newly diagnosed parent of a child with Autism (or even and experienced one). Luckily you have me…someone who enjoys skimming through the more “important” articles and then “fact checking” to make sure you are getting the most up to date information!
If you are a military spouse (or active duty member) you are all too familiar with acronyms, and this article will be a breeze for you. However, I will list the actual names of the various programs in the text for those of you who don’t have a military background.
I will start with your insurance options, yes you do have options. Currently, my children and I subscribe to Tricare Standard with MOAA Mediplus Supplemental Insurance (this was a personal preference). We do have an annual deductable to meet with both, and with MOAA we have a quarterly fee, but we are able to see any doctor and don’t require any referrals. I pay about $1,000.00 out of pocket every year for our insurance, but I feel like they cover a great deal more than Tricare Prime. Not to mention, my children are on an alternate immunization schedule so they aren’t allowed to be seen on base, so this was basically our only option.
Your other option, Tricare Prime, is the insurance plan that everyone is enrolled in when you first join the military (or marry into it). With Tricare Prime you will be assigned a doctor on base (PCM – Primary Care Manager) and you will need a referral from them each time you want to see a specialist or a doctor off base. Let me tell you this, you are ALWAYS allowed a second opinion off base, and if you have a specific doctor you want to see, (or your child to see) and they are a Tricare provider, you can call the referral line once you get your referral in the mail and request it to be changed from one doctor to another.
EFMP (Exceptional Family Member Program) is a program that everyone who has a child with Autism (or anything on the spectrum) will be required to enroll in as soon as identification of the disorder has been made. This program was put into place (so I was told) to provide administrative and family support for the family as well as a safeguard for the military. In other words, you will not be stationed in a place that cannot provide you with adequate medical or education services for your child with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder).
ECHO (Extended Care Health Option) is an optional program offered to those with a child diagnosed with Autism. The ECHO program provides financial assistance for various services and supplies. Per my conversation with an ECHO representative, they provide ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy to military children diagnosed with Autism. There is a fee and it is based on your rank and monthly pay. Qualifying for the ECHO program is a case by case basis based on your child’s degree of mental retardation, physical disability, or extraordinary physical or psychological condition. To be honest, the ECHO program is very specific and contacting them directly is your best option for information. Jaxon did not qualify for the ECHO program because he did not need ABA therapy or Respite Care (that is exactly what I was told when I applied).
EIA (Educational Intervention for Autism) is a program offered to children diagnosed with Autism, CDD (Childhood Degenerative Disorder), Asperger’s Syndrome, or PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified). You must be enrolled in the ECHO program to qualify, and this program gives you access to a larger variety of Educational Interventions. It is my understanding that the EIA program will require you to submit a copy of your child’s IEP, and a behavior plan. This is another program that we do not participate in, but if you have any questions I would be more than happy to get you in contact with the proper people. You can also read more about this program at the link below.
Watch for my upcoming articles regarding the various therapy services offered for children diagnosed with Autism, filling out all those necessary forms, IEP help, and much more!
Links for Tricare Services for Autism:
TRICARE Extends Autism Demonstration
Operation Autism Online
Military One Resource
TRICARE Extended Acces to Autism Services Demonstration
My name is Dr. Jill Tschikof, I am the mother of two, and a military spouse. We have had struggles and successes raising a child with Autism while serving in the military and I hope that my future stories will act as a form of guidance for others navigating this same path. You can find my personal blog at www.autismdeal.com, I hope that you will email me if you have any questions.