Today, U.S. Patty Murray reintroduced legislation that ends the ban on in vitro fertilization (IVF) services at VA in order to help severely wounded veterans start families. Murray's bill, the Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvements 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 that described 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.
"There is absolutely no reason that this 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. These are veterans who have sustained serious and deeply impactful wounds and who are simply asking for help to begin a family. We owe them nothing less."
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.
Senator Murray's bill is paid for by allowing the VA Secretary to charge a small fee to large corporations contracting with VA, and using those funds only for providing the treatment authorized by the bill.