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US Congress passes bill approving IVF for veterans

3 October 2016
Appeared in BioNews 871

The United States has introduced legislation allowing the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to fund fertility treatment, including IVF, for veterans wounded in combat.

The bill lifts a 24-year ban on VA coverage for such treatment, and it is thought that as many as 1800 veterans who have suffered reproductive injuries while serving in the armed forces could benefit from this legislation.

Walinda West, a spokesperson for the VA, congratulated Congress on its decision to pass the legislation, listed as the FY2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill.

'Including IVF in the medical benefits package would be consistent with the VA's goal to restore the capabilities of veterans and to improve the quality of veterans' lives,' she said.

However, while the new law has lifted the current restrictions on IVF funding, the VA has not formally announced when it plans to begin offering such coverage. According to the bill's primary sponsor, US Senator Patty Murray, the legislation does not entitle the VA to any extra money to pay for fertility treatment and they will have to generate the funding via other means.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the VA would need to generate an extra US$145 million each year to cover the costs of offering such a benefit. If the funding cannot be easily generated, then the veteran benefit may not proceed as planned.

The VA is yet to confirm whether it will still provide the funding to veterans for reproductive services if they do not receive additional costs from Congress, and although the MilCon-VA Bill lifts the ban on IVF funding, it does not necessarily mean that the VA has to act upon it anytime soon, or even at all.

The previous ban on IVF funding was supported by religious conservatives in Congress concerned with the destruction of embryos following IVF, and legislative attempts to overturn the restrictions in recent years have been opposed. The MilCon-VA Bill was passed as a last minute addition to a temporary budget bill to fund the VA and only lasts for two years.

Supporters of the legislation have pointed out that the new law does not go far enough, reports the Stars and Stripes. 'It's a first step but what ultimately needs to happen is the ban needs to be repealed,' said a spokesperson for Senator Murray, who has campaigned for IVF coverage for veterans for a number of years.

If the treatment funding does go ahead, it will also cover costs for those who opt to explore adoption services rather than assisted reproductive technologies. The bill has been signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Congress allows IVF coverage for wounded vets, with limits
Stars and Stripes |  29 September 2016
House Approves, But Doesn't Fund, IVF Services at VA |  29 September 2016
The National Infertility Association Applauds Passage of MilCon-VA Appropriations Bill
RESOLVE (press release) |  29 September 2016
Veterans win fight for fertility coverage
9News |  29 September 2016
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