New legislation would cover in vitro fertilization and other fertility services for wounded veterans.
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not cover the cost of in vitro fertilization and other fertility services for servicemen and servicewomen. Advocates hope that will soon change, as a growing number of veterans with war wounds that impede their ability to have children without artificial reproductive services are coming home.
Technological advances in medicine are allowing troops who were catastrophically wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive homemade bombs; the bombs target foot patrols and are noted for the damage they cause to lower limbs and the reproductive system. Since 2003, almost 2,000 service members, both men and women, have come home with reproductive system injuries.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray ( D-Wash.) is pushing for coverage for in vitro and other reproductive services support to be covered by the VA. Murray stated that providing artificial reproductive technologies (ART) is just one of the costs of war. As the Chairwoman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Murray introduced legislation which was then passed by the Senate in mid-December, instructing the VA to make available to disabled veterans more advanced fertility techniques, such as like IVF. It is unknown if similar legislation will pass through the House, currently focused on spending cuts.
While the VA does cover some aspects of fertility support, including testing, counseling, and some procedures, it does not usually cover the cost of care for veterans’ spouses or surrogates. For service people who have more severe wounds, where extensive treatment may be needed, the VA falls short. IVF, in which the egg and sperm are combined and then the resulting embryo is transferred in hopes of implantation and pregnancy, is not covered. The cost for IVF, which can take several cycles before success, typically costs more than $10,000 and as much as $20,000, and even then, it may not work.
While the DOD covers the cost of IVF for injured active-duty service members, as of 2010, that does not help many veterans. The policy funds three cycles of treatment for both service members and their spouses, but only is they are active duty. Many service members must wait until they have healed from trauma, and have left the service. For many, it is long after they have left the military before they even know that they face fertility issues.
The Congressional Budget Office currently estimates that the overall cost of fertility services as requested would cost more than $550 million over the next five years. Senator Murray has proposed funding the ART services from money saved via the drawdown of Iraq and Afghanistan troops. The VA has not yet taken a public position on the bill, but has stated that the goal is the VA is to offer services and support to help restore veterans’ capabilities as much as possible.
James G. Fausone is a Veterans disability lawyer and Veterans attorney with Legal Help for Veterans, PLLC. Learn more at http://www.legalhelpforveterans.com.