Senators Shaheen, Hassan Join in Introducing Bill to Help Wounded Veterans Start FamiliesMay 10, 2021
**The Veteran Families Health Services Act Would Repeal the VA’s Outdated Ban on Certain Fertility Treatments for Veterans with Service-Connected Injuries**
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined in introducing the Veteran Families Health Services Act of 2021, comprehensive legislation that would, among other things, ensure that service members’ and veterans’ fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), and counseling are covered by their health benefits.
Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is prohibited from covering the costs of certain fertility services, despite that fact that there are thousands of service members who are unable to conceive naturally due to injuries that they obtained during their service in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the VA and the Department of Defense offer some forms of fertility treatment and counseling, far too often they fail to meet the needs of these service members and veterans. Today, service members are faced with the choice of pursuing fertility treatments before leaving service or paying thousands of dollars out of pocket later.
“Many service members sustain injuries in the line of duty that make fertility treatments or IVF the only path to start families,” said Senator Shaheen. “It’s unacceptable that these treatments and counseling are out of reach for many military families because of sky-high costs. It’s long past time we modernize our health care system by ensuring these costs are covered – providing our veterans and service members with the health benefits they deserve.”
“I met with women veterans in New Hampshire earlier this year who raised their concerns about the challenges that wounded service members and veterans face in particular in accessing fertility treatments in order to have children and start a family,” said Senator Hassan. “This legislation would ensure that those who bravely served our country can access fertility treatment and counseling through the VA, and I am proud to work with my colleagues to gain support for this commonsense legislation.”
The Veteran Families Health Services Act would expand VA and Department of Defense’s current fertility treatment and counseling offerings and empower service members and veterans to start families when the time is right for them. This legislation would:
- Allow service members 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 service members and allow for the use of donated gametes.
- Ensure that veterans’ and service members’ spouses, partners, and gestational surrogates are appropriately included in eligibility rules.
- Provide support for service members 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 Department of Defense to facilitate research on the long-term reproductive health needs of veterans.
Senators Shaheen and Hassan are working to expand and improve veterans’ health care. The American Rescue Plan that Senators Shaheen and Hassan helped pass into law strengthens veterans’ health care services, including to support mental health and telehealth, and also includes significant funding for job training to help veterans get good-paying jobs. Senators Shaheen and Hassan also helped secure key priorities for Granite State veterans in the bipartisan veterans package that was signed into law earlier this year, including the Deborah Sampson Act, which Senators Shaheen and Hassan joined in introducing to eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face. The bipartisan package also included a number of other measures cosponsored by Senator Hassan, including supporting veterans experiencing homelessness, helping veterans safely dispose of unwanted medication, and helping address the high rate of unemployment among veterans as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, last year Senators Shaheen and Hassan cosponsored bipartisan legislation, which is now law, to improve veterans’ access to mental health care.
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