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.


Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) enrollment is mandatory for active duty service members and is required immediately upon identification of a medical and/or educational special need. EFMP provides both administrative and family support, and is an essential program for both families and the Military Services.


TRICARE is the healthcare system the Department of Defense (DoD) provides for active duty and retired uniformed services members, their families, and survivors. Within the United States, TRICARE is organized into two geographic service regions: East and West. Each region is administered by a TRICARE Regional Office and offers the same choices for health care plans and coverage. TRICARE beneficiaries living overseas have fewer options.


The Extended Care Health Option (ECHO) provides financial assistance to eligible beneficiaries who qualify, based on specific mental or physical disabilities, and offers services and supplies not available through the basic TRICARE program. In this way, eligible family members, once registered, access these additional benefits from ECHO as a supplement to TRICARE.


The Comprehensive Autism Care Demonstration (ACD) is a program designed to augment the services provided by TRICARE and better meet the unique challenges faced by families impacted by autism. This program specifically targets evidence-based interventions founded in principles of applied behavior analysis.


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