The Department of Defense (DoD) and the Defense Health Agency (DHA) have acknowledged the growing number of military dependents diagnosed with autism and the challenges faced by their families. From frequent moves to the need for specialty care, military families with dependents on the spectrum often face obstacles to access to and continuity of quality healthcare. The DoD has a number of programs and benefits in place to help families overcome these obstacles.

This section describes these principal healthcare benefits to which military families with special needs are entitled, or may be entitled.


The Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) is used by the DoD to support and categorize military families with dependents who have specific medical diagnoses or need specialty care. This program is available to active duty family members.


TRICARE is the healthcare program used by eligible DoD beneficiaries, which generally includes eligible active duty family members, military retirees and their eligible family members, and family members of Reservists who are utilizing TRICARE Reserve Select or TRICARE Retired Reserve. You can access this benefit by using military treatment facilities (MTFs) for care when space is available and, in many cases, can also use TRICARE to see TRICARE-authorized civilian providers. To provide additional support to military families with family members on the autism spectrum, other programs are either required or available, including ECHO and ACD.


The Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) is a supplemental benefit for special needs active duty military families who have a dependent with a qualifying diagnosis. In most cases participation in ECHO requires registration in the EFMP.


The Autism Care Demonstration (ACD) is the TRICARE program under which eligible military family members with an autism diagnosis can access applied behavior analysis (ABA) services.


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