Bill expanding fertility treatment for wounded veterans unlikely to pass

By LEO SHANE III | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 17, 2012

WASHINGTON — A bill to provide expanded fertility treatment services and adoption assistance to wounded veterans likely won’t become law this year after Republicans raised concerns over funding for the proposal.

Under current law, servicemembers who suffer injuries to their reproductive systems in the line of duty are eligible for certain fertility services — including costly in vitro fertilization treatments — through the Department of Defense. However, veterans with those injures aren’t eligible to receive IVF treatments through the Department of Veterans Affairs, and have limited options for other fertility treatments.

The new measure, passed by the Senate last week, would expand those offerings, and specifically make IVF treatments available to veterans. It would also create a pilot program to provide child care to female veterans seeking counseling at VA centers, and require the department improve a host of services aimed at female veterans.

Senate Democrats had proposed paying for the new services — expected to total about $568 million over the next five years — with cost savings expected to come from the scaling down of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Senate Republicans objected to that, calling it a budget gimmick which could end up trimming needed funding from current military operations overseas.

House Republicans have offered no plans to bring the measure to the floor for a vote. In a statement to reporters, House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said he is “anxious” to address the issue, but not until the next session of Congress begins in January, because of those same funding concerns.

“I am hopeful we can work on this issue to provide an outcome that not only supports our wounded and their families, but also doesn’t put our troops in the field in further danger,” he said.

Army data show that nearly 2,000 servicemembers have suffered reproductive injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.

Twitter: @LeoShane



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