Congress Lifts Ban on In Vitro Fertilization Services for Veterans Wounded in the Line of Duty in Annual Spending Bill
Washington, DC, September 29, 2016
Spending bill includes $1.1 billion for Zika, resources to address the opioid crisis
Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02) today announced that a provision to overturn a 1992 ban on in vitro fertilization (IVF) services for veterans is on its way to the President’s desk as part of the Congressional spending bill – legislation that also includes $1.1 billion in funding to combat the Zika virus.
“Veterans deserve to be able to start families – period,” said Larsen, a senior member on the House Armed Services Committee. “For more than two decades Congress has stood in the way of veterans who dreamed of becoming parents. I am proud to say that by working together with my colleague Senator Murray and alongside numerous veterans and veterans advocacy organizations, those days will soon be behind us.”
The provision – which was originally included in the Senate version of the bill by Senator Murray (D-WA) – allows the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide assisted reproductive technology and adoption reimbursement to veterans through September 30, 2017, and comes after a four year effort on the part of Larsen and Murray. Previously, the VA was 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.
Thousands of servicemembers suffer battlefield injuries that make it difficult or nearly impossible to have children without medical assistance, and a single IVF treatment can cost $12,000 or more.
Earlier this year, Larsen held a press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol with families of wounded veterans and the Wounded Warrior Project to urge an end to the ban. 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.
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.
Because this provision was passed as part of a larger annual spending package – the prohibition will go back into effect at the end of the fiscal year unless additional action is taken. Larsen has vowed to continue his efforts to fight for a full and permanent repeal of the IVF ban.
The Congressional spending bill also includes a provision that provides flexibility for the Department of Justice to fund new opioid grant programs, as well as $37 million in new resources to fund those programs. In August, Larsen concluded an expansive tour of Washington’s 2nd Congressional District where he held a series of events with law enforcement, health officials, advocates, community leaders, and elected officials to discuss new tools made available by the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which he helped pass in July, and to hear directly from stakeholders as to what additional support is needed to address the opioid epidemic.
Additionally, the legislation fulfills Larsen’s request to increase funding for the Maritime Security Program – a program through which the government provides an annual retainer payment to 60 private, U.S.-flag ships to carry critical U.S. cargo during wars and national emergencies – to $299 million for FY 2017.