Are Changes To Tricare Benefits For Autism On The Way?

It is such a tough time for the DoD to consider changes to benefits packages for service members right now, but there are legislators right now that are trying anyway. Here is a link to an article of two legislatures who are pushing for autistic benefits for retirees and increasing the cap on benefits.

Rising health care costs are on everyone’s mind right now. Health care is going to, yet again, be front and center during next year presidential campaigns. Health care costs are rising dramatically, and the cost of service to treat the military’s autistic dependents is already high. I wish I had actual figures to know what the cost is for the tens of thousands of dependents receiving services such as ABA and other costly treatments, but I know at $36,0000 annually doing the math is not very difficult.

I want to reiterate, especially as an actively serving officer in the Army, that I am pleased to a large degree with the services that Tricare provides. There certainly is MUCH that can be improved on and there are many shortfalls in the administrative areas of Tricare, EFMP, ECHO, Respite and others. I am thankful and appreciative. BUT, the limits currently set by Tricare just aren’t enough to provide the appropriate amount of private care autistic kids need. Don’t get me wrong $36,000 annually is a lot of money. This figure also appears to be the financial benefit benchmark that is being mirrored in those states whose legislatures are passing autism insurance mandates. I would personnaly like to see the cap increased to provide more costly private services like ABA, but I know that Tricare and the government can’t be wholly responsible for all that care. At least, not under the current confines of IDEA and the problems it creates for military families, and ultimately where responsibility for the growing epidemic called autism belongs. My children belong to me. So, ultimately, responsibility for their care, education and development belongs to me as well. I appreciate the care that Tricare provides for private services for all of my boys. But, I also appreciate that some of the fight resides with us navigating the public education system and IDEA to fight for the services my boys need from them as well. I wrote a series of posts a few months ago about Tricare and autism benefits that you can read here.

I am a supporter of these legislative efforts. More money invested into legitimate, plausible autistic treatment methodologies like ABA into early and intensive treatments will only decrease the long term cost on our ever-increasingly fragile systems of Social Security and Medicaid if intensive and early treatment isn’t provided in the early stage of the life cycle. If the government does not pay more now for early intervention through increased caps in benefits, they will certainly pay more later as those autistic dependents grow and mature and require much more from the Tricare system and then the government.

In advocacy,

Mike

Legal Readings For the Autism Advocating Parent!

I wanted to share a short list of the top required readings we have found invaluable in our trials and tribulations of advocating for our boys’ education within public school districts. I know there is a good amount of information on the Internet (both good and bad) and I would love to hear your suggestions of great resources! In order to be a great advocate for your own child, you first have to understand one very important rule: “No one cares more about your child’s education than you.” So, if you as the parent have the greatest responsibility and interest in making sure your autistic child gets the most proper education, then it suffices to say that you must read, research and prepare for the day when (not if) you get in a disagreement with your district. As the saying goes in when you own your own business, “It’s not IF, but WHEN you get sued”, such is the same as a parent-advocate – It’s not if, but when you are going to run into potential IDEA issues. When this occurs you have to be ready to prepare for a potential fight. I wrote a 3-part series about this about a month ago about how we prepare for disagreements. You can read the first part of the series by clicking here. I can’t encourage you enough as fellow parent with autistic children that you must do the sometimes difficult part of increasing your understanding of how to get a proper education for your child. Even if your family has enough financial resources and wherewithal to hire advocates and SPED law attorneys, if you don’t have a thorough understanding of at least the basic premises of special education law then you won’t know if the people you hired are doing all they can or truly looking out for your child’s best interest. Ignorance of IDEA and related matters is NOT bliss! Our children are counting on us to be the best parents and advocates for them that we can be!

These are must-read, got-to-have-in-your-library resources for properly advocating for your child’s legal rights! If you don’t have these books, copy and paste the title into your favorite book site, or print this out and take it with you to your local book store and order them today! The investment in your knowledge about your child’s needs will save you so much money by helping your school district avoid the mistakes and tricks they sometime play at the educational disadvantage of your autistic child!

In no particular order:

1) Autism – Asserting Your Child’s Right to a Special Education, by: David Sherman

2) How to Compromise with Your School District Without Compromising Your Child: A Practical Guide for Parents of Children with Developmental Disorders, by: Gary Mayerson

3) Every book and video that Wrightslaw.com publishes!

4) www.wrightslaw.com – this is one-stop show for all case-law related information.

5) Your state’s Department of Education website for past rulings in your state of due process hearings and state complaints.

In Advocacy,

Mike

Compton Unified Schools and Their Blood Sucking Lawyers

I just got this email hot off the Outlook press today. This is the stuff that makes my blood boil as the parent of an autistic child who has in the past had to press a due process in order to adjudicate my son’s education. It riles me to NO END when I see the frivolous and outright waste of OUR tax dollars on issues such as the one I linked to below. Rather than just award the child the proper education as deemed by an administrative law judge, school districts and the slimy education law firms that represent them just tap into the seemingly endless pot of financial backing the school district has at it’s disposal. In our own personal experience we found that the school district that chose to go to due process with us in Michigan spend no less than $100,000 in legal fees just to have us win and settle on an amount less than a tenth of that (you can request that through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) like we did to get those figures from our enemy at the time). Please read the summary at Wrightslaw.com about this school district in Compton, CA who were slam-dunked on violation of IDEA (click here). They not only appealed to the Federal Court level and lost their appeal, but took it a step higher and submitted it to the Court of Appeals at the Circuit Level. When that appeal was rejected, they have subsequently made an appeal to have the case tried by the Supreme Court! Can you believe the audacity of this school district? How dare they take an obvious denial of FAPE and WASTE so much money on the legal process. That money is so desperately needed in this time of state budget cuts on student programs and education, not funding the purchase of a new Porsche for one of the partners of the law firm representing Compton Schools!

Remember this my friends in advocacy: Your school district doesn’t have to do SQUAT relative to offering even an ‘appropriate’ education to your child. You have to press, and press and press some more. You see, they don’t have to, and won’t do anything unless compelled legally to act. They can just sit and let time pass. Time is on their side. The burden of proof is on you to make them act to provide the proper program you seek. Time, though, is not on your child’s side.

As unfortunate as it is to see a public institution waste finite monetary resources for ridiculous campaigns like this, as an advocate you have to be prepared that they just may decide to appeal when you win! And if they lose there – appeal again! And when they lose yet again…heck it isn’t their money, it’s the parent’s money – so keep on making the law firms rich and the let the special needs kids suffer!

Jumping over dollars, just to grab pennies. But, like all things related to government waste – why take the easy and fiscally sensible path when you spend ten times as much and then have nothing to show for it.

In Advocacy,

Mike

The IDEA Restoration Act – Contact Your Rep in Congress! Final Week!

Write Your State Representative!

Have I ever shared with you that I can’t stand “minimums” or “limits”? Of course I haven’t, as we’re still getting to know each other. Minimums to me represent the least possible amount of effort or requirement on order to barely satisfy a particular stated condition. There are of course some cases where a minimum amount would be preferred, like how much you are required to pay the IRS at tax time. But, generally speaking, anyone who only chooses to achieve or provide the minimum speaks a lot to that person’s character. Limits, on the other hand, irritate me. I am of the personality that I don’t like to hear “no”, or “you can’t do that”, or “you’re not allowed to do that”. These always conjure up in me a fighting spirit. You might as well have said, “Do you wanna fight?” I don’t like limits and I don’t like minimums. When I have a headache and need to take some medicine, I prefer the one that has the greatest amount of pain reliever in it. Extra strength? Maximum dosage allowed? Long Lasting? These are the kinds I’m talking about. I prefer the medicine with the strength to kill a man, but they backed it off a few notches. Give me the strongest dosage you got!

As an advocate I am sure you do not like limits or minimums either, especially when it comes to IDEA and developing IEPs for your autistic kids. Do you only want the minimum that IDEA allows for the education of your child? Do you like limits on maximum number of ABA hours, or amount of educational interventions you can get? I am sure the answer is no. If that is the case it is not too late to join me and my friends at the Autism Society and write your congressman for your state and tell them to cosponsor the IDEA Restoration Act (S.613 AND H.R. 1208). This is bill that takes away limits. Currently, when you go to due process and need an expert witness to validate the claims you are making, you have to pay for that out of pocket. Furthermore, when you win you can’t get those witness fees back from the school district. It’s a wash and many times eats up any favorable monetary benefit you received in the judgment. This act will allow parents and disabled students to recoup those costs after due process if they receive a judgment in their favor.

Please call or write before the end of this week (May 4-7) and tell your representative in both the Senate and House your story and how important it is for them to support legislation like the IDEA Restoration Act. You can use the sample piece below when you call or for your email:

CALL CONGRESS: Call your Representatives and Senators and ask them to cosponsor S.613 and H.R. 1208, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act. You can call 202-224-3121 (TTY 202-225-1904). If you do not know who your representatives are, you can look them up at www.house.gov (click here) and at www.senate.gov (click here). Ask for the staff member who handles education or disability. Share with them the information below:

SEND AN EMAIL MESSAGE TO CONGRESS: You can email your Representatives through their special forms on the House of Representatives website (click here to email), http://www.house.gov/writerep , and write your Senators through their Web form on the Senate website (click here).

SAMPLE EMAIL / INFORMATION TO SHARE IN YOUR CALL: Here is information you can share with Congress. You can use it for your phone call, or you can cut and paste it into an email form. If you email, it helps to personalize it with even a few sentences about your child or your legal/advocacy practice. You might add something like “We are the parents of a child with autism and it is important to us that you support this bill, so we can afford due process if we are ever forced to go.” Or write something longer and more personalized.

Dear Congressman/Senator ________________,

Please cosponsor the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act H.R. 1208 and S.613. It will restore Congress’ original intent in enacting the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986 that parents who prevail in administrative hearings and court actions be allowed to recover expert witness fees. The bill would overturn the Supreme Court decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy (2006).

When school districts provide an education so poor that they fail their legal obligations, parents can seek an impartial due process hearing to protect their child. In those hearings parents must provide testimony from such expert witnesses as psychologists, doctors, therapists, and educational experts. This testimony is needed to prove that a free appropriate public education was not provided to their children. Few parents can afford expert witnesses. Nearly 36% of children with disabilities live in families earning less than $25,000 a year; over two-thirds in families earn less than $50,000 a year. Without the ability to afford expert witnesses, the right to a due process hearing is not meaningful for most parents.

The bill simply gives parents the same right as prevailing plaintiffs under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other similar laws to recover expert fees. When Congress passed the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986, it intended that parents would recover expert witness fees in IDEA cases, as clearly stated in the Conference Report. But the Murphy case overrode that intent. We ask Congress to restore its original intent and provide parents with the right to recover expert witness fees if they win their case.

Sincerely yours,

Your name here

United, we all can do much good collectively for the children of our country who walk the pathways in autism.

In advocacy,

Mike