A House bill would pay injured veterans who lose their reproductive organs in combat or a service-related accident $20,000 to start a family or use however they want.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., introduced legislation Monday that would compensate veterans for the "loss or loss of use of creative organs," to help veterans who can't have children as a result of a service-connected condition.
Under the bill, veterans would receive $10,000 in two lump-sum special compensation payments — funds over and above the disability compensation the veteran receives — to be used "at the veteran's discretion."
According to Miller, chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, the legislation is designed to give former troops with devastating injuries the funds needed for medical treatment or adoption services.
"If a veteran does decide to use this benefit to start a family of their own, the real winners would be the children. Who better to raise America's next generation than the bravest of our current generation? But no matter how each affected veteran might utilize this benefit, one thing is clear: they earned it," said Miller, introducing HR 4892.
Nearly 1,400 troops in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars experienced injuries to their pelvises, groins or spinal cords that make it difficult or nearly impossible to have children without medical assistance. Others have been injured in accidents that have rendered them infertile as a result of paralysis or traumatic brain injury.
The Defense Department covers the cost of in vitro fertilization and other fertility services for some wounded troops while they remain on active duty and also covers the cost of medications, such as erectile dysfunction medicines, for troops with head injuries that affect fertility.
VA covers fertility assessments, counseling and some treatment, such as surgeries, medications and intrauterine insemination for female veterans and surgeries, sperm cryopreservation and sperm retrieval for males. But VA does not cover in vitro fertilization or fertility services for nonveteran spouses.
Miller introduced a bill last year that would have required VA to cover advanced fertility services, including IVF, for veterans whose injuries to reproductive organs or spinal cords hindered their ability to father or bear children.
That bill would have allowed VA to cover the costs of up to three in vitro fertilization cycles for affected veterans.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has pushed since 2012 for the Veterans Affairs Department to cover fertility services, including surrogacy, for injured veterans. Her legislation, the Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act, S 469, was introduced last year but did not make it out of committee.
Murray said Tuesday that she will continue pressing for VA to cover IVF and other services for injured personnel, and she had harsh words for Miller's latest proposal, that sidesteps any requirement that VA pay for fertility services, which some members of Congress oppose.
"Fulfilling our promise to take care of our veterans shouldn't be a partisan issue, which is why I'm so disappointed by continued half-measures like this. Simply put, this latest proposal falls far short of covering the care a veteran and their spouse needs to fulfill their dreams of starting a family," Murray said.
Patricia Kime covers military and veterans health care and medicine for Military Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.