Veterans who were wounded during service receive free health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”). However, the care does not include in vitro fertilization (“IVF”) to assist with fertility issues resulting from injuries sustained in combat or training. Congress passed a law in 1992 that prohibits the VA from providing IVF to veterans, forcing thousands of veterans to pay out of pocket to start a family.
IVF is, however, provided to active military service members. Unlike the VA, the Defense Department provides such services in seven hospitals if an active member’s infertility is a result of an injury sustained in service. The Defense Department hopes to expand their coverage of fertility services to a wider population, but it would nonetheless exclude veterans who receive services through the VA. Many wounded service members do not undergo IVF while in active military status because they are concerned about recovery and rehabilitation. By the time they consider procreation, they are retired or discharged from the military, placing them in veteran status and without coverage for IVF.
Senator Patty Murray has made several attempts to change the 1992 law, most recently by introducing a bill that would allow IVF to be covered by the VA. At a Senate Committee meeting, the VA expressed support for the bill as long as it would receive the necessary funding to provide such services. However, Ms. Murray withdrew her bill after amendments were made by Republicans that would ban the VA from working with Planned Parenthood and other centers that provide both fertility treatments and abortions.
For the time being, veterans with fertility issues are left with few options. Some fertility centers and clinics offer wounded veterans a discounted rate for IVF. But even with the discounted rate, many couples cannot afford the treatment and are forced to either abandon their hopes of a family or resort to other measures, such as taking out a loan.