Congress May Expand Fertility Benefits For Injured Troops, But Some Religious Groups Are Objecting
Speaker 1: 00:00 Congress is considering whether to provide more benefits for service members and veterans whose war injuries left them in fertile. Right now the military pays for in vitro fertilization only in limited circumstances and a VA program that provides fertility coverage for some veterans is scheduled to expire later this year. Carson frame reports for the American homefront project. Thanks to [inaudible] army veteran Jason Gibson lives with his wife Cara and daughter Quinn in central Ohio. They spend a lot of their days coloring and playing hide and seek [inaudible] here. Come for the Gibsons family. Life hasn't come easy. In 2012 in an IED blast in Afghanistan, Jason lost both legs and suffered shrapnel injuries to his groin. Do you remember how daddy got hurt? Speaker 1: 00:52 He stepped on a bomb. No one in the military health system talk to the Gibson's about possible fertility problems until a year later we were meeting with his nurse practitioner and all of a sudden she just brought up, hey, have you guys gotten a sperm count yet? And the thought just never crossed our mind. We just kind of assumed that everything would be okay. Jason's sperm count was practically nil and it didn't improve. The couple was told they had no chance of conceiving a child naturally and would need to rely on uterine insemination methods or IVF. Still they received little support from the military in its insurer. Tri-Care tri-care would cover like IUI and they would cover some of the IVF medications, but when it comes to the actual procedure, um, egg retrieval, sperm retrieval, freezing of embryos, they don't cover that. In 2014 after Jason was medically retired from the army, the Gibsons paid for IVF mostly out of pocket, showing out more than $10,000. Quinn was born nine months later. Since then, the situation has improved somewhat. In 2016, Congress directed the VA to cover IVF for people whose fertility problems are service-related, but that can be difficult for couples to prove and funding for that VA program is uncertain. Congress has been approving it one year at a time, meaning it could go away as soon as the end of September. Senator Patty Murray of Washington state wants to make it permanent, Speaker 2: 02:16 although we have passed a forum, this bill in our yearly appropriations bills. It's caused a lot of confusion to our veterans and that's why I ever introduced this bill as permanent and defined it. So specifically Speaker 1: 02:29 Marie also wants the VA to cover more types of treatments and offer them to more kinds of veterans, including nontraditional couples and those who need donor sperm or eggs. Her bill would also require the VA to pay for the cost of adoption for veterans with service-related infertility, but the cost of Marysville has been a roadblock and so have religious objections. Gynecologist, Kathleen, Ravi l is past president of the Catholic Medical Association. She says they support veterans but oppose IVF. It takes away from the couple that having the child, it puts it into the laboratory. So the lab technician chooses the embryo or the embryo is maybe one, two or three embryos who will be implanted in the woman. The rest may be discarded and these are human lives. Senator Murray takes issue with that Speaker 2: 03:18 to them. I say go talk to these men and women whose one dream is to have children and to have a family and then ask yourself if you should impose your religious beliefs on them Speaker 3: 03:30 and where's my peak free. Speaker 1: 03:34 Now that the Gibsons have their family, they say they feel lucky, but they still think of other service members returning from war and hope that the government moves fertility higher on its list of priorities. There's this old same that goes that if you know the military would have wanted you to have a family, they would have issued you one. And I've just kind of always felt that's how it's been. I mean, themes like have improved, but at the time we just kind of felt last, I don't know what color [inaudible] Speaker 3: 04:00 Mimi red, orange, yellow, green. Speaker 1: 04:06 This is Carson frame reporting. And the story was produced by the American Home Front project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting.