Infertility doesn’t discriminate.
As a U.S. veteran, you may hope such a devasting diagnosis is met with easy access to assisted reproductive technology (ART) like in vitro fertilization (IVF) through your VA health benefits.
Unfortunately, only a select few currently have access to specific fertility treatments through VA healthcare coverage. This leaves many veterans searching for affordable donor egg IVF options and other ART services to start their families.
What coverage may you be eligible for?
And what is the VA doing about the current lack of fertility treatment coverage?
Which Veterans Are Eligible for ART/IVF Treatment?
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), only veterans who have service-related infertility are eligible for ART treatments like IVF.
Further criteria include:
- vets must be legally married
- male spouses must be producing sperm
- female spouses must be producing eggs and have an intact uterus
Those who require donor sperm, eggs, or embryos are currently exempt from coverage, as are those who want to use a gestational carrier. Additionally, it leaves those who are unmarried, in a same-sex relationship, or who are transgender without the fertility help they need to conceive.
Studies indicate there are many veterans in need of infertility treatment.
Based on recent data, scientists found that 13.8% of male veterans and 15.8% of female veterans reported fertility issues. All were unable to conceive naturally over a period of a year. Worse still, female veterans have a 50% higher rate of infertility than the general female population.
What’s the VA Doing to Improve Veteran Access to ART/IVF Treatment?
Last year, the Veterans Infertility Treatment Act of 2021 was introduced to the House but failed to proceed any further. However, the VA has made a few promising proposals within its budget plan for 2023.
In the proposed budget, the VA requested legislation that would enable the department to expand upon the fertility treatments it offers. This includes offering coverage to veterans who are single, in same-sex relationships, and those who require donor eggs or sperm or who wish to use a gestational carrier. Eligible veterans may also be entitled to claim adoption expenses.
Within its proposal, the VA states it’s “necessary to fill the gap created by the legal requirements, exclusions, and limitations in VA’s current program.” The VA has a statutory mission to offer comprehensive medical services to veterans, but with current exclusions in its infertility policies, it’s failing a huge number of vets; in fact, fewer than 570 veterans used the current IVF benefits by mid-2019 since they were first introduced in 2016.
Current hurdles in changing the legislation include financial constraints (the proposed budget requests $10.5 million in funding to increase the IVF services offered) and pushbacks due to religious and pro-life concerns.
During the 2022 budget request, there were several concerns over the increased budget figures provided by the VA. The VA is regularly pressured to justify its increasing budget requests, with Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla quoted as saying:
“What’s the long-term plan here? Clearly, we must provide for our veterans’ health care, and we all are passionate about that. […] But if we’re going to keep seeing these exponential increases year after year, we need to build a consensus on an allocation adjustment so that other discretionary priorities are not affected, including the non-healthcare priorities within VA.”
Expanding Veterans ART/IVF Benefits to All
Under current legislation, only a small minority of veterans can seek infertility help through the VA’s services. Those who are ineligible may instead undergo a cost-per-cycle IVF service available at six military treatment facilities.
The new proposals within the VA’s budget are essential for increasing veterans’ access to the services they deserve. After serving our country and putting their lives on the line, they should have the opportunity to bring a new life into the world and create their own family.
Exclusions based on relationship status or an inability to produce eggs or sperm leave too many of our veterans without hope of building the life they dreamed of post-service. Despite devoting themselves to service and country, it leaves many searching for the financial means to make parenthood a reality.