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Military Families Sue Defense Department Over ABA Autism Therapy

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Military families having children with autism have filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Defense, alleging that the DoD and its health benefits division, TRICARE, have wrongfully refused to provide insurance coverage for applied behavior analysis therapy (ABA) (Berge v. United States of America, et al, No. 10-cv-00373-RBW, D. D.C.).

According to the families:

ABA therapy is known to be extremely effective in treating children with autism if given at an early stage of development. It is scientifically validated and includes positive reinforcements and individual goal setting, to achieve dramatic behavior modification. ABA therapy allows children with autism the opportunity to reach maximum potential and the hope of becoming independent in their adult lives. With virtual unanimity, physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and mental health professionals regard ABA therapy to be the most effective treatment for autism. Yet, the DoD refuses to afford this therapy to autistic children of military families.

The lawsuit contends that the military health benefits division, TRICARE, at the direction of the DoD, incorrectly characterizes ABA therapy as "special education" and thereby improperly excludes ABA therapy from the health care available to members of the military. The families refute this position and say in their complaint that many prestigious individuals and organizations, including the U.S. Army, the Army and Marine Corps Autism Task Force, the executive director of the National Autism Center, the acting surgeon general of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force Major Ella B. Kundu, diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, agree that ABA therapy is not "special education."

The case was filed July 5, and it was assigned to Judge Reggie B. Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The plaintiffs are represented by Bruce J. Klores of Washington, D.C. The defendants are represented by Adam D. Kirschner of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

Download the complaint.