Over 2.8 million service members have served in Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001. Between 2001 and 2012, it’s estimated that 12 percent of the injuries sustained by service members include what is termed as genitourinary trauma, which includes injuries to the kidneys, bladder, ureters, urethra, penis, and scrotum. For some, these injuries make it impossible to start or expand their family without medical assistance. As the law currently stands, the Department of Defense (DoD) is able to offer more expansive fertility treatment options than the VA. This week IAVA, Wounded Warrior Project, RESOLVE: The Infertility Association and others joined together to ask Congress to ensure that VA can provide the same options as DoD.
Because of the nature of today’s warfare, a combination of ground combat and an increased use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), these types of injuries are happening at a higher frequency than ever before. Modern medicine has advanced to such a degree that many who are wounded survive their injuries. They are often young and returning home with a lifetime ahead of them. But for those with genitourinary trauma, starting or expanding their family, which can be a major part of reintegration, can be difficult without the support of assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization.
In vitro fertilization is one of the most popular and effective procedures for couples who are having trouble starting a family and for whom other procedures may not be effective. Yet due to an archaic law written in the 1980’s, VA cannot provide this technology to veterans and their spouses. IAVA is one of a coalition of twelve organizations calling on Congress to right this wrong. At the beginning of the month, our coalition sent a letter to Congress applauding their inclusion of language in the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4947/S. 2806) that enable the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide in vitro fertilization treatment. This week, we joined our partners on the Hill to share the stories of affected families and to ask that this language remain as part of the final, enacted bill.
This is an issue that should supersede political agendas. This type of trauma does not just impact reproductive health, but also psychological, sexual, social and mental health. For many wounded warriors who qualify for this while in uniform, their focus is on recovery from their traumatic injuries, not on starting a family. It’s not until they transition out of the military that their attention turns to starting or expanding a family. This is why it is critical that VA have the same authority as DoD to provide this treatment.
Those in uniform make a promise to protect this nation no matter the sacrifice. In return, this nation promises to care for those who have borne the battle, and their families. Thanks to modern medicine, not only are many returning home having survived injuries that in past wars they would not have, but veterans with genitourinary trauma now have options that can help them to start a family. In vitro fertilization may be their only option. Yet, the VA is prohibited from offering this assisted reproductive technology. If we don’t right this wrong, we as a nation are not fulfilling our obligation to these men and women. IAVA calls on Congress to ensure that the language inserted into the FY 17 MilCon-VA Appropriations Act that will affect this change remains in the final, enacted bill.