Press Releases

Senators Murray and Duckworth, Representative Larsen Introduce Bill to Help Wounded Veterans Start a Family

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd) introduced the Veteran Families Health Services Act of 2021—comprehensive legislation that would, among other things, ensure that servicemembers’ and veterans’ fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), and counseling are included as part of the health benefits they’ve earned.

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of servicemembers suffered genitourinary, blast, spinal and brain injuries that left them unable to conceive naturally. But, because of a ban Congress passed in 1992, Veterans Affairs (VA) has been prohibited from covering the costs of certain fertility services. While VA and the Department of Defense (DoD) offer some forms of fertility treatment and counseling, far too often they fail to meet the needs of these servicemembers and veterans. Today, servicemembers are faced with the choice of pursuing fertility treatments before leaving service or paying thousands of dollars out of pocket later.

“Right now, too many wounded warriors have to front prohibitively expensive costs on fertility treatments or IVF if they have dreams of starting a family after coming home from war. That’s wrong—America’s veterans deserve better, and they deserve comprehensive health care benefits from the VA after their service to our country,” Senator Murray said. “This is not a partisan issue and moving this legislation across the finish line is firmly within our reach – getting this done has never been more important for veterans who want to start a family in Washington state and across the country.”

“We must do everything we can to make sure our Veterans receive the care and benefits they have earned, and that includes helping them fulfill their dreams of having a family,” Senator Duckworth said. “I wouldn’t be a mother today without the miracle of IVF, which is one reason why I’m proud to be introducing this important bill with Senator Murray that would help modernize our healthcare systems and expand fertility treatment and counseling offerings at the VA.”

“America’s women and men in uniform sacrifice greatly. They should not have to sacrifice their dreams of having a family,” said Larsen, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. “Congress should take the long-overdue step of permanently overturning the IVF prohibition to help servicemembers and veterans start a family.”

The Veteran Families Health Services Act would expand VA and DoD’s current fertility treatment and counseling offerings and empower servicemembers and veterans to start families when the time is right for them. This legislation would:

  • Allow servicemembers to cryopreserve their gametes before deployment to a combat zone or hazardous duty assignment and after an injury or illness.
  • Permanently authorize fertility treatment and counseling, including assisted reproductive technology like IVF, for veterans and servicemembers and allow for the use of donated gametes.
  • Ensure that veterans’ and servicemembers’ spouses, partners, and gestational surrogates are appropriately included in eligibility rules.
  • Provide support for servicemembers and veterans to navigate their options, find a provider that meets their needs, and ensure continuity of care after a permanent change of station or relocation.
  • Expand options for veterans with infertility by allowing VA to provide adoption assistance.
  • Require VA and DoD to facilitate research on the long-term reproductive health needs of veterans.

As the daughter of a disabled World War II veteran and as a college intern at the Seattle VA psychiatric ward, Senator Murray knows the sacrifice that military service demands. She has previously introduced legislation that would address many of the challenges that veterans face when it comes to starting a family following their service, and has in the past passed a provision to end the ban on IVF services at VA through the Senate. In addition to her work on veterans’ reproductive health, Senator Murray has been a long-time and tireless advocate for veterans, fighting for increased funding for increased benefits, housing assistance, new veterans clinics throughout Washington state, and accountability from the VA, as well as increased education benefits, expanded employment assistance, and reduced wait times for veterans with pending claims.

"We are thrilled to endorse the Veteran Families Health Services Act which will allow America to truly support the troops in this most important area – building their families," said Ellen Gustafson, Co-Founder, Military Family Building Coalition.

“PVA thanks Senator Murray for her longstanding leadership on this issue. We call on the Senate to quickly pass the Veteran Families Health Services Act, which would ensure veterans who experience infertility can continue to try and fulfill their dream of having a family,” said Heather Ansley, Associate Executive Director of Government Relations, Paralyzed Veterans of America.

“Our nation has been charged with supporting those that have selflessly answered the call of service. That support includes aiding in the family planning process, especially where our veterans have suffered injuries that would otherwise prevent them from doing so,” said Kai River Blevins, Associate Policy Director at the Minority Veterans of America. “Introduction of this legislation is the first step in ensuring that many in our community are afforded access to life-changing and comprehensive family planning measures, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. We applaud Senator Murray for championing this Bill and look forward to its swift passage.”

“Everyone deserves the right to a family, and we advocate every day so that all Americans can access the care they need to build their family. However, too many barriers exist for our military and veterans in accessing the family building options they need and want. That is why we are honored to advocate with Senator Patty Murray as she introduces the Veteran Families Health Services Act, a pro-family bill that dismantles those barriers and helps create families,” said Barbara Collura, President & CEO, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.

“Injuries, toxic exposure, PTSD and other rigors of military service can have lasting and far-reaching implications for America’s veterans, even impacting the ability to begin a family. DAV is pleased to support the Veterans Families Health Services Act, which would expand the counseling, treatment and other services VA provides, enhancing options and support for reproductive health needs. We thank Senators Murray and Duckworth for continuing to prioritize the nation’s veterans, especially those who have sacrificed so greatly in the line of duty,” said DAV National Legislative Director, Joy Ilem.

"On behalf of America’s reproductive medical professionals, we thank Senator Murray for her leadership on this legislation that supports America’s veterans and their desire for family,” said Dr. Hugh Taylor, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.  “After serving our country overseas or at home, our veterans deserve the very best care and attention when they’re ready to start or add to their family.  We are honored to endorse this legislation, and we look forward to meeting these new additions to families."

The bill is supported by Paralyzed Veterans of America, Minority Veterans of America, the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), RESOLVE: the National Infertility Association, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Military Family Building Coalition, Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Coons (D-DE), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) cosponsored the legislation in the Senate.

Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Judy Chu (D-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Dina Titus (D-NV) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) cosponsored the legislation in the House.

See a fact sheet on the Veteran Families Health Services Act of 2021 HERE.

See bill text for the Veteran Families Health Services Act of 2021 HERE.