Senate passes bill to help wounded veterans pay for fertility treatments

By JENNIFER HLAD | Stars and Stripes | Published: December 13, 2012

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Thursday passed a bill that will give female veterans and the spouses of veterans better access to fertility treatments and adoption through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told her fellow senators that the legislation was necessary because the VA does not cover fertility treatments for veterans who have had severe injuries to their reproductive systems.

“They are told when they come home that despite the fact that they have made such an extreme sacrifice for our nation, we can’t provide them with the medical services they need to start a family,” Murray said in a statement on the Senate floor.

Veterans such as Army Staff Sgt. Matt Keil and his wife, Tracy, have had to pay out of pocket for in vitro fertilization because of a rule barring the VA from funding the procedure, Murray said.

Keil was shot in the neck during a patrol in Iraq in 2007, six weeks after he married Tracy, Murray said. The injuries to his spinal cord paralyzed him from the neck down.

The Keils wanted to have children, but Matt Keil’s injuries prevent him from reproducing naturally, Murray said.

“Having children was all they could talk about once they adjusted to the new normal,” Murray said.

The couple paid nearly $32,000 out of pocket for IVF for Tracy, and she became pregnant with twins, Murray said.

“Having a family made them feel whole again,” she said.

Other veterans have different stories but have encountered similar problems, Murray said.

“Any servicemember who sustains this type of injury deserves so much more,” she said. Passing the bill “is about giving veterans who have sacrificed absolutely everything every option we have to help them fulfill the dream of simply starting the family. It says we’re not turning our back on the catastrophic reproductive wounds that have become a signature of these wars.”

The bill would allow the VA to provide enhanced treatment for female veterans, fertility treatment for spouses and adoption assistance. A similar bill is pending in the House.

Murray said that DOD data show nearly 2,000 military men and women suffered reproductive or urinary tract injuries between 2003 and 2011.

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