This week over 200 infertility advocates (including many from California) and representatives from numerous veterans organizations joined RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine to converge on Capital Hill in Washington, D.C. They visited our Congressional representatives to lobby for bills (link to RESOLVE site) that will pay for the infertility treatment wounded veterans need and deserve to build their families.

Baby in Army Helmet

Located in a region where many military personnel live, we are honored to have the opportunity to help active-duty service men and women overcome infertility, much of which is paid for by their military health care benefits. My colleagues and I also see first-hand the devastating reproductive injuries that our wounded veterans have sustained from combat.

Powerful blasts from explosive devices like IED’s have injured thousands of men and women soldiers patrolling on foot in bomb-laden areas in Iraq and Afghanistan. IED’s are now the leading cause of combat-related casualties (HealthDay). Because IED’s hit from the ground up, they cause catastrophic groin, genital and spinal injuries that have tragic affects long after our military comes home.

Once discharged from the military, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) covers veterans’ medical benefits. Unfortunately because of a law passed in the early 90’s, the VA has a policy prohibiting in vitro fertilization. So wounded veterans, whose income and financial resources may be limited by their years in the military, must pay out-of-pocket for IVF and related procedures, such as testicular sperm extraction. This is not right, especially since the changes in how modern warfare is conducted has increased the number and severity of their injuries and better field medicine has kept more soldiers alive. Now we owe them the assistance to have a happy and productive live, fully integrated into civilian society, once they return home

The good news is that successful treatment options, such as in vitro fertilization, are available for veterans to create their families. For male veterans, we have techniques to effectively extract their sperm and combine it with the eggs of their wife, who may have no infertility issues. Female veterans with reproductive injuries can use the services of a surrogate mother with their own or donor eggs and IVF. Additionally, we applaud the VA for recently instituting a forward-thinking program to allow active soldiers to freeze their sperm or eggs before deployment, with the intent of insuring their genetic future.

Advocacy Day is over, but there is still work to be done. If you feel our wounded vets deserve to have their infertility treatment paid for by the VA, please visit the RESOLVE website at http://familybuilding.resolve.org/site/PageServer?pagename=advday_issues and see how you can get involved. Use the hashtag #IVF4Vets and/or #IFAdvocacy on your social media accounts to let your friends and family know these efforts are the least we can do for these brave men and women.