Congresswoman Elaine Luria Calls on NDAA Conferees to Retain Provisions to Help Military Families with Special Needs Dependents

October 4, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Last week, Congresswoman Luria and Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) sent a letter, urging the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Armed Service Committees to retain the provision containing the TRICARE ECHO Improvement Act in the conference agreement for the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The letter notes the TRICARE ECHO Improvement Act (H.R. 6148), which Congresswoman Luria co-led, would benefit thousands of active-duty families with special needs dependents. Congress created the TRICARE ECHO program to serve as an alternative to Medicaid’s Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waiver programs, but it fails to provide comparable benefits. Unfortunately, many servicemembers cannot access HCBS programs because eligibility is based on state residency and the nature of their service causes them to move frequently. The TRICARE ECHO Improvement Act outlines a more robust ECHO program that improves access for military families with special needs dependents and provides equitable coverage of the services widely offered through Medicaid.

“Military families make enormous sacrifices for our nation, and we must ensure they receive the benefits they deserve,” said Congresswoman Elaine Luria. “Many of our bravest men and women experience lengthy delays and disruptions in receiving state residency-based benefits because their service requires them to move frequently. By including the TRICARE ECHO Improvement Act in the NDAA text, we can ensure military families receive the support they need.”

“Certainly, the selfless individuals who answered the call to serve and defend our nation in the military and their families deserve the very best and most consistent care we can give them,” said Congressman Tom Cole. “Since military service can mean frequent moves, we must ensure the same quality of health care and services is maintained and not disrupted due to a change in their location. To provide that much-needed consistency for our military families, I am happy to join Congresswoman Luria in writing to the Senate and House Armed Services Committee and urging the inclusion of the TRICARE ECHO Improvement Act in the final text of the NDAA.”

H.R. 6148 would make several improvements to the TRICARE ECHO program, including:

  • Increasing hours of covered respite care. This is short-term care for a patient to provide rest for the patient’s primary caregiver.
  • Codifying new regulations on respite care eligibility, including that respite care may be offered regardless of whether the eligible dependent receives another ECHO benefit.
  • Codifying existing coverage of durable equipment. This would explicitly state that TRICARE may cover service and modification of durable equipment and assistive technology devices, as well as training to ensure equipment is fully functional and matches the physical needs of the user.
  • Providing coverage of residence and vehicle adaptions. H.R. 6148 would extend its benefits to include medically necessary alterations to residences and vehicles to reduce the effects of a person’s qualifying medical condition.

Congresswoman Elaine Luria represents Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District. She serves on the House Armed Services Committee, where she is the Vice Chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, where she serves as Chair of the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee.