Murray calls for quick action on bill to end the VA’s ban on In Vitro Fertilization which has prevented thousands of veterans with traumatic brain injury and serious spinal cord or reproductive organ injuries from accessing fertility care
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) that ends the ban on in vitro fertilization (IVF) services at VA in order to help severely wounded veterans start families was cleared through the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Senator Murray’s bill, the Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2013, also builds upon previous law to improve VA services for women veterans and veterans with families.
Late last year, Senator Murray was able to pass the bill through the U.S. Senate after delivering an impassioned speech on the Senate floor describing the challenges veterans and their families face in accessing IVF. Unfortunately, the bill failed to move in the House of Representatives in time to make its way to the President’s desk after Republican leaders there expressed opposition. Working with advocates and military families, like Staff Sergeant Matt Keil and his wife Tracy, Sen. Murray is pushing for the Senate to once again immediately take up and pass this legislation.
“There is absolutely no reason that this bill should not move quickly to the President’s desk,” said Senator Murray. “It was passed unanimously in the Senate, and the House has a responsibility to our most seriously wounded veterans and their spouses to act. This is about giving veterans who have sacrificed everything, every option we have to help them fulfill the simple dream of starting a family. It says that we are not turning our back on the catastrophic reproductive wounds that have become a signature of these wars. It says to all those brave men and women that didn’t ask questions when they were put in harm’s way that we won’t let politics get in the way of our commitment to you. We owe them nothing less.”
Last year, the New York Times ran an editorial emphasizing the importance of providing these services saying:
“In more than a decade of combat overseas, the military and V.A. have continually had to adjust to the challenges of new traumas with new treatments, as with the epidemic of brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. Adapting the V.A. health system to better meet reproductive-health needs should be part of that response. It is one compassionate way to fulfill the country’s duty to wounded veterans.”
Department of Defense (DOD) data show that between 2003 and 2012 nearly 2000 servicemembers have suffered reproductive and urinary tract trauma. The reliance on foot patrols in Afghanistan and the prevalence of improvised explosive devices has left servicemembers far more susceptible to these injuries. In fact, these data show a clear increase in injuries of this nature in recent years.
Veterans who have severe reproductive and urinary tract injuries and spinal cord injuries (SCI) often need highly specialized treatments and procedures like IVF to conceive. However, under current law, IVF is expressly excluded from fertility services that are provided by the VA to veterans or their spouses. This is a significant barrier for veterans with SCI and genital and urinary tract injuries and as a result they have to seek care outside of the VA. DOD currently provides access to IVF services under the Tricare program and coverage for IVF and other fertility treatments at no charge to severely combat wounded servicemembers. Senator Murray’s bill would provide veterans with the same access.
Murray’s bill also will give VA permanent authority to offer child care programs at hospitals and Vet Centers for veterans seeking care, and improve outreach to women veterans.