Veterans who suffered injuries that resulted in fertility problems will soon be eligible for federal assistance for in vitro fertilization.
President Barack Obama on Thursday signed a bill that authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs to help pay the costs for the next two years. The provision was included in the two-year budget for Veterans Affairs and military construction and was authored by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
The provision would help veterans with service-related injuries affecting fertility. Murray originally proposed providing $88 million to the VA in April. Its current form would use existing VA health care funds.
“I am thrilled that this country now is going to take care of those soldiers who gave such a sacrifice,” Murray said.
Congress banned the VA from funding in vitro fertilization in the 1990’s. Murray’s next task, she said, is to ensure the in vitro fertilization assistance will not need reauthorizing every two years through the appropriations process. She will try to permanently repeal the ban, “so this is not a battle in the future,” she said.
“I do not give up easily,” Murray said. “Over the years, I’ve heard from so many veterans who signed up to serve their country, suffered a life-changing injury, only to find out the VA was barred from covering the costs of the one procedure they needed to realize their dreams of having a family.”
Murray previously proposed standalone legislation to repeal the ban, but was blocked in the House three times since 2012.
In vitro fertilization is a procedure where a woman’s eggs are fertilized outside the body and then implanted in the womb. Injured active duty personnel can occasionally qualify for the service, but veterans with service-related injuries don’t have the same privileges. The VA will determine whether surrogate pregnancies fall within the scope of treatment.
The new law is part of a legislative package that includes Congress’ continuing resolution to keep the government open through Dec. 9. It passed through full Senate and the House after a brief partisan fight over funding to battle the Zika virus.
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