VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - Dozens of parents held a large demonstration in Virginia Beach on Sunday, bringing attention to TRICARE's decision to keep coverage of behavioral services for children with autism. Earlier this month, TRICARE considered making the children pass a standardized test to get these services.
Now, local military families are collecting names to petition Congress to make the services available for all service members.
Parents say TRICARE's decision to change their policy on behavior analysis for kids with autism caused more confusion than anything else.
"The information was dulled out in little tiny bits that didn't make a full picture," said parent Leslie Manning.
The confusion started when TRICARE announced they would require kids with autism to take a standardized test to receive help from behavioral analysts like Jessica Bensimon.
"Basically we use behavior principals to teach kids just about any skill and reduce challenging behaviors," said Bensimon, a board certified assistant behavioral analyst.
TRICARE said it is not making changes to behavioral services for active duty service members. But, parents and their supporters say that isn't enough.
"What does that mean for active members that are no currently enrolled in ABA?" asked Bensimon.
Parents also feel the policy doesn't clearly state what the changes mean for retired service members. That is why dozens of parents gathered in Virginia Beach to collect signatures for a petition. They plan to send the petition to Congress to show them how vital behavioral services are.
"They are so important that my husband re-enlisted solely for the purposes of maintaining these services for our son," Manning said. "They are what allow us to connect with him and reach out to him."
The group of parents said they need 100,000 signatures by August 14. They want Congress to review the policy changes and make sure all service members are covered.
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