With more American women involved in combat operations, Senator Jon Tester is making sure that the Department of Veterans Affairs is prepared to care for them when they return home.
Female service members are increasingly involved in combat operations, and many of them suffer life-changing battlefield injuries -- including injuries to their reproductive systems -- as a result. But VA fertility treatment services currently fail to meet the needs of severely wounded women veterans who plan to have children.
Tester is backing legislation that will help those veterans by improving reproductive treatment and care options. Tester's bill ends the VA's ban on providing In Vitro Fertilization and expands child care options for veterans who seek counseling or other treatment at Vet Centers.
"As a young, woman veteran I wholeheartedly support Senator Tester's bill," said Casey Elder, an Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient. "A woman's service to her country should not take away her ability to have a child, and the VA can help these families through better assistance with reproductive care and treatment. If our nation is truly committed to supporting the growing number of women veterans, this type of legislation is desperately needed."
Tester says the bill is part of his overall effort to improve VA services for women veterans.
"As the population of women veterans continues to grow, the VA must adapt to meet the needs of women and their families," Tester said. "This bill is one more step toward living up to the promises we made to our veterans and helping them lead healthy, productive lives."
The Defense Department already provides fertility treatment to service members with severe battlefield injuries. In addition to expanding fertility services to the VA, Tester's bill also calls for the department to research the long-term reproductive health needs of women veterans.
Army data shows that between 2003 and 2011 more than 600 women and men suffered reproductive and urinary injuries while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tester's bill also expands services for male veterans.
Tester is Montana's only member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. He most recently called for equal access to care for homeless women veterans and held a roundtable for women veterans.