Around 1,800 veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq received damaging injuries that prevent them or make it extremely difficult for them to have children. For years, these veterans were forced to cover fertility treatment costs through civilian insurance and other means. The Department of Defense provides some funding for active-duty personnel who have been injured, covering in vitro fertilization, fertility medicines, and other procedures. However, this funding stops after they retire, and the Department of Veterans Affairs is legally prevented from covering any costs at all due to a law passed in 1992. Many injured veterans have expressed that their desires to have a family have been destroyed through their service. Most are unable to pay for treatment, and those who are able to can only cover enough treatment to have one child.
Find out how your elected officials are helping – or not helping – veterans with the costs of fertility treatment.
A New Military Budget
In order to address this, Democratic Senator Patty Murray proposed a bill that would budget $38 million for the military fertility program. In January 2016, a pilot program was launched by the Pentagon. Through the program, service members were allowed to freeze eggs and sperm before they deployed. In case of serious injury, these troops would still be able to have a chance at starting their own families. The program never really left the ground since a Senate vote stripped program funding back in June. The 2017 military spending bill that would give $602 billion for personnel strength, military activities, and defense activities (but not military fertility) passed 85 to 13 with 2 not voting.
Sen. Murray claimed that cutting fertility spending entirely from the budget was “a truly shameful mistake.” When the Pentagon’s program began, deployed troops supported it and drew comfort from the doors it would open. However, concerns persisted over assisted reproduction. Opposition voiced the issue of some fertilized embryos being destroyed in the process. In response to religious concerns, one military wife said this was understandable, but the decision should still be up to each individual family.
If Miller’s bill passed, each veteran would receive $20,000 that the veteran could use at his or her discretion. This amount would be well above compensation for disability. Is this too much? Miller claimed the biggest obstacle in passing the bill would be those who believe the cost is too large to validate covering fertility payments.
For years Miller has been fighting to get her bill passed. In 2012, the Senate actually approved the bill unanimously, but the House failed to vote, stopping the plan in its tracks.
Are Treatments Worth the Money?
The treatments available to overcome infertility problems are long, expensive, and often unsuccessful. Several couples will try various methods and end up spending years of time and tens of thousands of dollars in the process only to fail in their goal of having children. With the bill that has been struggling to pass for years, these treatments would become far more affordable for veterans. But would the cost be worth it?
Why spend $38 million each year on a program that is not guaranteed to provide results? With a lot of controversy surrounding artificial insemination and other fertility treatments, perhaps the program wouldn’t be worth it. Perhaps those millions of dollars could do more good somewhere else by covering other national defense costs, homeless veteran costs, or even civilian costs.
Although it’s true that this money could also be useful somewhere else, this program would enable injured veterans to have hope again, and it would compensate (at least partially) for the wounds inflicted during military service.
How Would You Vote?
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