By Sandra Basu
WASHINGTON — Veterans whose combat-related trauma left them infertile now have access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment covered by VA, thanks to implementation of a new interim final rule.
“We are moving ahead with coverage for service-connected IVF. It’s long overdue,” VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, told lawmakers last month during his confirmation hearing.
Currently, VA provides certain infertility services other than IVF to veterans as part of the medical benefits package. With the interim rule, VA is amending its regulation to authorize IVF for a veteran with a service-connected disability that results in the inability of the veteran to procreate without the use of fertility treatment.
The regulation also states that VA may provide fertility counseling and treatment using assisted reproductive technologies, including IVF, to a spouse of a veteran with a service-connected disability affecting fertility.
Advocacy groups applauded the change in law.
“Thousands of veterans and their families now have new hope with an additional path to start or expand their families, which is often critical to many veterans’ transition back to civilian life after duty,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). “With these new treatment options, veterans are no longer burdened with paying out of pocket to welcome a new member to their family, which only adds to the list of burdens surrounding the choice to do so.”
The new regulation comes as a result of a law passed by Congress, which had been promoted by advocacy groups concerned that VA was not authorized to provide the medical treatment.
In congressional hearings, proponents argued that DoD and the TRICARE program already provided advanced fertility treatments, including assisted reproductive technology, to troops with complex injuries.
Legislation addressing the matter did not make it out of Congress until late last year when lawmakers passed a provision giving VA the authority to provide assisted reproductive technology through fiscal year 2018. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a leader in getting the provision passed, said senators will work to make the change permanent.