Still Workin’ for the Man

[Workin’ for a Livin’ by Huey Lewis and the News]

How do you look a battle-weary soldier in the eyes and say: 

I know you are exhausted, My Love.  I know it has been a long road through hell and back again – 

More than once.  

Yes.  25 years IS a long time. 

But you cannot retire just yet, My Love.  

Yes.  You will have to deploy again – go through hell – again.

 I’m sorry, My Love.

 ◊ 

On the topic of our healthcare crisis in this country, there are so many arguments to be heard.  So much talk about the costs; the political drama of partisan strategies and taxes, who should pay what and how should that money be spent. 

When I think of the healthcare crisis in this country, so many faces come to mind. 

I see the troubled face of a retired nurse of more than 50 years service in the healthcare industry.  I have listened as she shared her experience in a rehab home recovering from a broken leg.  “Nursing isn’t what it used to be.”

I see the tear-soaked face of a mother who has sat in a clinic waiting room for more than 2 hours with her screaming infant.  With no place else to go, she prays her name is called before she has to leave because she cannot miss another shift at work.

I see the embarrassment on the leathery face of a day-laborer asking the pharmacist for just a few pills of his monthly medication, because that is all he can afford.

I see my daughter’s chubby-cheeked smile.  I am terrified. 

 Do you see their faces?

 Do you see your own?  Or that of your child? 

And there are so many more to see.  Folks who have beaten cancer, and those who have not.  The unemployed ‘wealthy’ who find themselves homeless because cancer was the last thing they could afford.  The working poor in this country that are served eviction notices because a week of the flu cost them so much more than a bottle of aspirin. 

I also see the face of a brave and selfless soldier. 

Whether the face of a Wounded Warrior who cannot get the care he or she requires and deserves, or a father of two who has served his country for 25 years and cannot secure his own family’s future healthcare.  It IS a crisis.

1 in 88 active duty military dependent children live with autism.   

Only 10% of those children are receiving the autism therapies and care they require.

10%.

Though not an easy task, all active duty dependents are eligible  to apply for autism benefits through the military’s TRICARE insurance and ECHO program, and therefore could theoretically obtain it.  The access is sketchy at best for many of these families.  With changes of duty station, cycling deployments, and inconsistent providers, even the most diligent parents fail to get what their child with autism so desperately needs.

Now hear this – the moment the child’s soldier retires – that’s it.  Done. 

No more ECHO.  No more autism coverage. 

Retirees – WHO HAVE SERVED OUR COUNTRY FOR 20 YEARS – are not eligible to access the autism therapies that TRICARE provides active duty dependents.

My husband is 43. 

Our daughter is 4. 

We are ONE YEAR into her autism diagnosis.  My brave and mighty soldier is burdened with the weight of knowing that he must choose insurance coverage his baby girl needs over retirement he so richly deserves.

25 years of service.

3 wars.

Countless medals and citations.

It isn’t just autism, either.

The ECHO special needs coverage program is what we have relied on so many times throughout RM’s first years with 4q deletion syndrome.  It covers durable medical equipment, respite care, supplies, formulas, and home nursing care. 

THE MOMENT A SOLDIER WITH A SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD RETIRES – ALL OF THE ADDITIONAL BENEFITS ARE GONE. 

Let’s do some math and then I’ll let you go.

Most career, active duty military members joined when they were just babies themselves, between 18 and 21 years old.  Let’s say a soldier joins at 18 and has a child when he is 25.  That child is diagnosed with autism at 3 years old when the soldier is 28.  The soldier is eligible (and often forced) to retire at 38, when his child is 13.  That’s it.  No more autism coverage.

Did I mention that this soldier retired at the rank of an E-6 Staff Sergeant and earns a retirement check of just $1,815. per month before taxes???

I love you, Honey.  I know you are tired.

I know.

I’m sorry.

 ♦

If you haven’t done so, please support the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act – HERE.

We cannot change the world without first being the change we seek.

Thank you.

Love,

Rachel

 

About Rachel Kenyon

Rachel Kenyon is an Aspie, Advocate and single mom of two beautiful babes - The Boy (11) and RM (8). The Boy is a Legomaniac and RM is a kick-ass diva with Autism and 4q Deletion Syndrome. View all posts by Rachel Kenyon

13 responses to “Still Workin’ for the Man

  • Erin- BeenThere Done That Mom

    Well said. We live in, and our husbands serve, a great country, but it needs to take care of us.

  • rhemashope

    Wow Rachel, this is powerful, so well written. You summed up in a couple sentences our ongoing struggles with TRICARE and ECHO. But one of the reasons – certainly not the only reason – we have stayed in the Army is because of the autism benefits covered by insurance. It took so much work to get through the beaurocracy… now everything is finally in place we don’t want to leave the Army and lose all of it.

    • Rachel

      Let’s pray we can get those folks over at the DoD to fix it before our poor soldiers run out of gas ;0)

      Gave the SGM his ‘high and tight’ this afternoon – lot of grey hairs on that man… doesn’t seem right.

  • Terry

    Thanks for visiting my blog! I am so moved by your words. My dh served in the Navy, before we were married, and both sides of our families have long military histories. I am glad that you are there to educate us, and in turn, hopefully we can spread that knowledge to others. I had no idea of ANY of this! I will be praying for you, and look forward to reading you blog with interest!!
    ~Terry
    http://mossandclover.blogspot.com

  • Sue

    We are this family, except we learned our oldest daughter had Autism 6 months after he retired from the Navy after 21 years of service. We looked foward to finally putting down roots and having a forever home. We had no idea that this would include us trying to figure out ways to get the help our daughter needed. We had a third daughter 4 years ago and she was also diagnosed with Autism 2 years ago. It is a daily struggle for us. The only thing that Tricare (or in our case US Family Healthplan) is willing to cover is speech therapy once a week in a therapist office 59 miles away….because it has to be under 60 miles. We live in NJ where the highest rates of Autism are in the country and yet there is no one under Tricare to help closer to home. I sometimes wish he had not retired so we could be getting more help for our girls, but then I remember the other struggles we during active duty I dont know which was worse. I wish you all luck on your journeys, know this family in NJ has you in our thoughts.

  • PartlySunny

    I’m so terribly sorry. My husband is a doctor for the VA, and in our opinion, there’s nothing our country doesn’t owe you and your family. Thank you for your sacrifice.

    • Rachel

      I greatly appreciate you stopping by. Thanks so much for your kind words! I am grateful to you and your husband and your husband’s work as well. I can only imagine the stories he has heard. Bless you for supporting what he does for our troops.

  • therocchronicles

    This is powerful Rachel. Thanks for getting this out there, people need to know how it really is for military families.

  • >"RM’s" Story – A family’s fight for hope, help and autism awareness | My Army Reserve

    […] the right thing and make TRICARE cover autism benefits as part of standard care for active duty AND retired dependents. I feel empowered by the knowledge I have gained in this process and I look forward to […]

  • Come May Flowers « Welcome to StimCity…

    […] the right thing and make TRICARE cover autism benefits as part of standard care for active duty AND retired dependents.  I feel empowered by the knowledge I have gained in this process and I look forward to […]

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