Support for Special Needs Families

Military families tell our Association the issues they face in caring for a special needs family member while simultaneously supporting the service of the military member are complex. Most often, meeting these needs requires the coordination of many distinct military and community entities, with the responsibility for that coordination too often falling to the already-burdened family. Military families caring for a special needs family member need not just medical and educational support. They also need assistance from state and local agencies, relocation help, respite, and family support, especially if they are also dealing with the deployment of their service members.

Our Association supports:

  • Ensuring any changes made to the ECHO benefit incorporate the needs of families with ALL diagnoses.
  • Expanding DoD’s Autism Demonstration coverage of Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy to all eligible ECHO-enrolled beneficiaries when therapy is deemed necessary by their physicians.
  • Developing a DoD pilot study to identify what additional service(s) special needs families need to improve their quality of life.
  • Allowing medically-retired service members and their families to maintain the active duty family TRICARE benefit for a transition period of three years following the date of medical retirement, comparable to the benefit for surviving spouses.
  • Allowing already-enrolled family members in ECHO to remain eligible for one year following the service member’s retirement from the military.
  • Proposing a variety of GAO reports to evaluate and examine current benefits.
  • Ensuring each of the Services maintaining a robust Exceptional Family Member Program.


  • May 14, 2014 Our Association supports the Caring for Military Children with Developmental Disabilities Act of 2014, which would expand eligibility for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy for special needs military families.
  • November 2013 Association supports establishment of Defense Dependents Development Disabilities Account to support all military families who can benefit from ABA therapy.
    Related Article: Association Sends Letter to Senator Murray (D-WA)
  • August 2013 TRICARE Management Activity claries ABA policies across the TRICARE Basic medical program, the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) Demonstration, and the new Autism Pilot for non-active duty family members.
    Related Article: TRICARE Clarifies Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Policies
  • August 2013 The Marine Corps EFMP announces changes to their respite care program for special needs families will be effective October 1, 2013.
    Related article: New Limits on Marine Corps EFMP Respite Care Program
  • July 2013 TRICARE announced no change in policy for active duty family members who need Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. ABA pilot will be open to non-active duty family members.
    Related Article: TRICARE Announces Changes to Policy Regarding ABA Coverage
  • June 2013 A federal judge reversed his earlier ruling regarding ABA coverage for all military families. TRICARE will have the opportunity to reconsider its policy or explain to the court why ABA should not be fully covered under TRICARE.
    Related Article: Reversal in ABA Therapy Ruling
  • April 2013 Military families waiting for release of ABA pilot program as mandated by the FY13 NDAA.
    Related Article: Military Families Waiting for ABA Pilot Program