Veterans whose injuries have caused infertility can now apply for reduced-cost fertility services and grants to cover related expenses under a new program administered by the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
The foundation has established a financial assistance fund that will help cover the unreimbursed costs of fertility services, while members of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies provide discounted services to eligible veterans.
The programs could help as many as 2,000 veterans who sustained injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan that caused infertility or diminished their ability to parent children naturally. While Congress passed a bill last month that allows the Veterans Affairs Department to provide fertility services to these former troops, the legislation contained no money to fund the program and the VA is not required to provide the services under the legislation's wording.
Bob Woodruff Foundation officials said they established the fund to serve as a "bridge" for veterans who can't wait for VA to establish a fertility program.
"We have an opportunity to provide renewed hope as our service members look toward the next chapter in their lives," co-founder Lee Woodruff said.
The fertility services associations ASRM and SART established their "Service to Veterans program" in 2015, offering deeply discounted in vitro fertilization services to affected former service members. The amount of discount is determined by each clinic, with most facilities offering at least a 50 percent discount on treatments, according to the organizations.
The Bob Woodruff Foundation’s fund is designed to cover any unreimbursed costs for these services. Companies that contributed to the fund include Merck & Co., Ferring Pharmaceuticals, and EMD Serono, officials said.
"Such collaboration between a medical specialty, the pharmaceutical industry and a well-established nonprofit like the Bob Woodruff Foundation is unprecedented," said Dr. Gilbert Mottla, a reproductive endocrinologist at Shady Grove Fertility, Annapolis, Maryland. "The effort will go a long way toward helping wounded veterans build their families."
The Defense Department covers fertility services for injured troops while they are on active duty. But until the most recent legislation was passed, the VA was restricted by law from paying for or providing fertility services to their patients.
The VA has not announced whether it plans to begin offering the services. Veterans wishing to be considered for a grant or who need access to the programs offered by ASRM/SART members