Happy Memorial Day Weekend, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Armed Services Committee Offices.
My name is Rachel Kenyon. I am a proud and battle-tested Army wife and mom of two beautiful babes, one with autism.
Currently, TRICARE military healthcare provides less than half the recommended treatments for autism, and only to children of active duty service members.
Service members who retire after more than twenty years and Wounded Warriors forced to medically retire are stripped of what little treatment TRICARE allows via the Extended Care Health Option (ECHO).
On Thursday, May 17, 2012, Congressman John Larson took to the House floor armed with embarrassingly large photos of our little family and made the case for Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act to be included as an amendment to the FY2013 NDAA. It worked, because for Mr. Larson, this had become personal. It worked because Rep. Tom Rooney had the courage to walk up to Chairman Buck McKeon and tell him it was personal. Mr. Rooney has two nephews with autism. Mr. McKeon did the right thing, because now he understood, it was personal. The amendment passed as part of the NDAA in the House.
Senator Gillibrand attempted this past week to do the same in the Senate Armed Services Committee markup session. The amendment was rejected.
I contact you today because this fight is so very personal for so many of us serving our country each day. Not only do I want my husband to feel that his more than 25 years of service warrant the medical care our daughter with autism needs, but I want my daughter to have the security of being able to access the tools that can give her a richer, more meaningful life.
It’s personal because I now hold 23,000 other children in my heart, and more than that many parents who serve our country. I love them as I love my own. I want them to feel proud of their country’s service to them in return. I want them to sleep at night, knowing that though autism may have knocked on their door, they can live their lives to the fullest with the care they need and deserve. It’s personal.
I know once you read the petition comments from your constituents, both military and civilian, you all will choose to do the right thing. To take this fight personally. To share with your fellow staffers and your Senators and Representatives that our families are proud. That our children are worthy. That if just one military child was denied the cancer treatments he or she needed, we would not be wasting time with emails and petitions. A true American who hears that 23,000 military children are being denied the medical standard of care for autism takes that personally. Well, for real American patriots, it is so very personal.
I appreciate your time and I wish you all a fun, relaxing Memorial Weekend in remembrance of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Our little family will be spending another weekend living with autism in our house and struggling to understand why we have to fight this battle, too.
Mrs. Rachel E. Kenyon
Wife to Command Sergeant Major William W. Kenyon
Mother of two beautiful babes – one with autism.