House Votes to Lift Ban on In Vitro Fertilization Services for Veterans

Jun 27, 2016 Issues: 114th Congress Accomplishments, Health Care, Social Services, Veterans

San Juan Journal: House Votes to Lift Ban on In Vitro Fertilization Services for Veterans

Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02), a senior member on the House Armed Services Committee, today announced that after a four year effort to expand reproductive services for veterans his provision to overturn a ban on in vitro fertilization (IVF) services for veterans has passed the House as part of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs conference report. The conference report will now be considered by the Senate.

While Larsen did not support the overall conference report because of last-minute policy riders that underfund the Zika virus, contain anti-choice policies, and controversial funding offsets, the IVF provision is a milestone. The provision allows the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide assisted reproductive technology to veterans — and comes after a final push from Larsen to pressure Congress to act. On Tuesday, Larsen led a letter to House and Senate appropriators urging Congress to end the ban and last week he held a press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol with families of wounded veterans and the Wounded Warrior Project.

"This is a milestone in a long and deeply personal fight to get Congress to do the right thing," said Larsen. "Veterans deserve to be able to start families – and today the House has finally recognized that its responsibility to support those who have sacrificed for our country includes providing them with widely-used and accepted reproductive services to help them become parents."

Since 1992, the VA has been able to provide veterans with fertility assessments, counseling and some treatments but not IVF – the most popular and successful assisted reproductive technology available today – which forced veterans to pay thousands of dollars to address fertility issues from service-connected injuries. A single IVF treatment can cost $12,000 or more.

In May, Larsen teamed up with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to urge the VA to work with Congress to help injured veterans access advanced fertility treatments. Thousands of servicemembers suffer battlefield injuries that make it difficult or nearly impossible to have children without medical assistance.

For years Larsen has been the House of Representatives' leading voice for expanding reproductive care for veterans. In last year's Veterans Affairs spending bill Larsen pushed the Department to analyze the prevalence of infertility among veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, in April of this year the agency announced that IVF treatment is consistent with its goal to support veterans and improve their quality of life—meaning that Congress has been the final barrier between affected veterans and the healthcare they need to start families.