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Take Action to Support Military Families Impacted by Disabilities

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An Exceptional Family Member Program child interacts with a horse from the Scarlet and Gold Riding Club aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, May 15. The SGRC staff brought out the horses for a sensory based science class. Photo by Cpl. Charles Clark
An Exceptional Family Member Program child interacts with a horse from the Scarlet and Gold Riding Club aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, May 15. The SGRC staff brought out the horses for a sensory based science class. Photo by Cpl. Charles Clark

The Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) is a supplementary program for active duty military families impacted by significant disabilities or extraordinary health needs.  This program was created because of military family’s historic inability to access needed Medicaid programs because of the long wait lists in most states and repeated moves military families make before making it to the top of those waiting lists.

In December of last year, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) forwarded the following recommendation, including specific legislative language, to the President and Congress calling for increased flexibility and funding to the program:  MCRMC Recommendation on ECHO Benefit.  They had previously included a similar recommendation (without legislative language) as one of the 15 recommendations in their final report (Page 120, MCRMC Recommendation #7, Jan 2015).  Secretary of Defense Carter’s response to this recommendation was supportive but the DoD bureaucracy has continued to drag its feet, hence the need for legislative language.

Military parents interested in these changes?  You will need to contact your elected representatives and ask them to ensure this legislative language is included in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The goal is to ensure that military children with disabilities are not negatively impacted by the service their parents provide the nation.

If you have additional time: For an analysis and history of the ECHO program, I recommend you read this piece I wrote in 2013: History and Current Analysis of ECHO Program  For the very extensive Excel spreadsheet the MCRMC created comparing the TRICARE ECHO program to all 50 state’s Medicaid waiver programs, open this link: Medicaid Waivers-State Services versus DoD ECHO Services.  One telling comparison notes that the ECHO respite program (which is nearly impossible to access anyhow) provides  a maximum of 192 hours a year while the average state Medicaid program provides 690 hours a year.

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Jeremy Hilton 2012 Military Spouse of the YearAbout the Author: Jeremy Hilton is a Navy veteran, Air Force spouse, author, and advocate. He helped repeal the COLA cuts in the 2013 BCA as a #KeepYourPromise cofounder and is currently working to reform military pediatric healthcare as a “TRICARE for Kids” Champion.  Jeremy has written for Time, Huffington Post, Military Spouse magazine, USAA, and Exceptional Parent magazine.

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