News Releases

Pilot program to allow servicemembers access to cryopreservation facing potential full funding cuts 

Department of Defense announced pilot program in January to allow servicemembers to fulfill dreams of starting families, despite catastrophic injuries from war 

Murray: “We simply cannot allow this provision—or others like it – to slip through the cracks and continue to chip away at the care that servicemembers deserve.” 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs and Appropriations Committees, spoke on the Senate floor against an effort to cut vital funding for fertility care for servicemembers. In January, the Department of Defense announced it would give members of the military greater flexibility for family planning in the event they are injured on the battlefield, but language included in the National Defense Authorization Act, now being debated on the Senate floor, would eliminate the program’s budget. Sen. Murray, who has long advocated for greater fertility options for veterans injured during their service, has filed an amendment to restore the program’s funding.

More on the Department of Defense cryopreservation program here.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“When we ask the men and women of this country to go to war on our behalf, we make a solemn promise to take care of them to support them while they are abroad—and take care of them when they come home. As the daughter of a World War II veteran, this is a promise I take very seriously—and I know my colleagues do too. One aspect of this promise that I have been proud to fight for is the idea that we should help warriors who have sustained grievous injuries achieve their dreams of starting families. This is something that is hard for many people to think about—but it’s a reality for far too many men and women.”

“As Secretary Ash Carter said himself, this was a move that “honors the desire of our men and women to commit themselves completely to their careers, or to serve courageously in combat, while preserving their ability to have children in the future.” I couldn’t agree with that sentiment more. And while the pilot program was not ground-breaking—and in fact has been used by the British Armed Forces for years—I believe the Pentagon’s announcement spoke volumes about having respect for servicemembers who are willing to risk suffering catastrophic injuries on our behalf. And to tell them, no matter what happens to you on the battlefield, your country will be there for you with the best care available.”

“It is the right thing to do for our young men and women who have big plans after their service is complete. So that is why I was so shocked by one line in the massive NDAA bill—a line that brings me to the floor today. Blink, and you’ll miss it. On page 1455 of this 1600-page bill – one line in a funding chart—you’ll find an attempt to roll back access to the care members of our military earned in their service to our country. This line zeros out the very program that helps men and women in our military realize their dreams of having a family, even if they go on to suffer catastrophic injuries while fighting on our behalf.”

“The very program that Secretary Carter got off the ground just six months ago—the promise the Pentagon made—this bill would throw that it in the trash. Taking away this dream is wrong. It’s not what our country is about. And while I don’t know how or why this line got into this bill, I am here to shine a light on it in the hopes that we can fix it, before it’s too late.  In the past day, I’ve talked to the Chair and the Ranking Member, and I’m hopeful we can change course. We simply cannot allow this provision—or others like it – to slip through the cracks and continue to chip away at the care that servicemembers deserve. That is not what this country is about.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks, as prepared:

“M. President, when we ask the men and women of this country to go to war on our behalf, we make a solemn promise to take care of them to support them while they are abroad—and take care of them when they come home. As the daughter of a World War II veteran, this is a promise I take very seriously—and I know my colleagues do too.

“M. President—one aspect of this promise that I have been proud to fight for is the idea that we should help warriors who have sustained grievous injuries achieve their dreams of starting families. This is something that is hard for many people to think about—but it’s a reality for far too many men and women.

“People like Tyler Wilson, a veteran I met with who was paralyzed and nearly died in a firefight in Afghanistan. After years of surgeries, rehab, and learning an entirely new way of living, he met Crystal, the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Together, they wanted a family. And I believe we have an obligation as a nation to help them.

“That’s why I have been fighting to expand VA care to pay for IVF treatments for people like Tyler. And it’s why I was so encouraged that six months ago the Pentagon announced a pilot program that would allow servicemembers who are getting ready to deploy– the very men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our country—an opportunity at cryopreservation.

“This practice, already widely-used among the general population, gives deploying members not only the ability to have options for family-planning in the event they are injured on the battlefield – it also gives them peace of mind. It says, they don’t have to worry about choosing between defending their country or a chance at a family someday. As Secretary Ash Carter said himself, this was a move that “honors the desire of our men and women to commit themselves completely to their careers, or to serve courageously in combat, while preserving their ability to have children in the future.

“M. President, I couldn’t agree with that sentiment more. And while the pilot program was not ground-breaking—and in fact has been used by the British Armed Forces for years—I believe the Pentagon’s announcement spoke volumes about having respect for servicemembers who are willing to risk suffering catastrophic injuries on our behalf. And to tell them, no matter what happens to you on the battlefield, your country will be there for you with the best care available. I applaud Secretary Ash Carter for his leadership. It is the right thing to do for our young men and women who have big plans after their service is complete.

“So M. President—that is why I was so shocked by one line in the massive NDAA bill—a line that brings me to the floor today. Blink, and you’ll miss it. On page 1455 of this 1600-page bill – one line in a funding chart—you’ll find an attempt to roll back access to the care members of our military earned in their service to our country.

“M. President—this line zeroes out the very program that helps men and women in our military realize their dreams of having a family, even if they go on to suffer catastrophic injuries while fighting on our behalf. The very program that Secretary Carter got off the ground just six months ago—the promise the Pentagon made—this bill would throw that it in the trash. M. President, taking away this dream is wrong. It’s not what our country is about.

“And while I don’t know how or why this line got into this bill, I am here to shine a light on it in the hopes that we can fix it, before it’s too late. In the past day, I’ve talked to the Chair and the Ranking Member, and I’m hopeful we can change course. We simply cannot allow this provision—or others like it – to slip through the cracks and continue to chip away at the care that servicemembers deserve. That is not what this country is about.

“In the past day, I’ve talked to the Chair and the Ranking Member, and I’m hopeful we can change course. M. President, many of my colleagues are quick to honor our military members with their words. But our servicemembers need to see that same commitment with their actions. And that’s why I am urging my colleagues to adopt it so we can keep this vital service intact for members of our military. We can take action that truly shows our servicemembers-- and our veterans-- that we understand, this service is a cost of war.  And it’s a cost that we, as a country, are willing to take on.

“Thank you, M. President.”

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