Veterans whose war wounds have rendered them infertile are one step closer to having their service-related condition covered by the Veterans Affairs Department.
The Senate version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill, which passed Thursday in an 89-8 vote, included a provision that would require VA to cover fertility treatments for the estimated 1,800 to 2,000 post-9/11 troops whose combat or training-related injuries have affected their ability to have children.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has lobbied for the change for more than five years. Thursday's vote marks the second time the measure has passed the Senate; the House must approve similar language before it becomes law.
"This issue shouldn't be about politics. It shouldn't be about partisanship. And we shouldn't cut corners when it comes to our veterans and their families," Murray told her Senate colleagues just prior to the vote.
The VA currently provides assessments and some treatment, like surgeries and medications, to increase a veteran's odds of creating a baby, but it is barred by law from covering in vitro fertilization and other advanced reproductive treatments.
The Defense Department covers in vitro fertilization and other fertility services for severely wounded troops, but only while they remain on active duty.
Affected veterans were on Capitol Hill last week to tell lawmakers about the challenges facing them as they have recovered from horrific injures, only later discovering that the VA doesn't offer fertility services for service-connected wounds.
"I felt betrayed, forgotten. I don't want other veterans to have to go through the heartache I went through. Why should any of us have to beg for something like this?" said retired Army Staff Sgt. Matt Keil, who was paralyzed from the upper chest down by sniper fire in Iraq.
The last time the Senate approved Murray's proposal was in 2012, but the measure failed in the House over funding concerns.
The current proposal would allocate $88 million over two years to VA to cover in vitro fertilization and other advanced reproductive treatments for injured personnel and their spouses.
Last week, the House Veterans Affairs Committee rejected bills containing the same provisions as Murray's proposed amendment. Instead, the panel advanced legislation that would give $20,000 in new compensation payouts to veterans who suffered injuries to reproductive organs, paid out over two installments.
The money could be used for fertility treatments, adoption or reproductive services but would not have to go toward family planning.
Patricia Kime covers military health care and medicine for Military Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patricia Kime is a senior writer covering military and veterans health care, medicine and personnel issues.