The VA Won’t Pay for a Baby – But They Should

If a service member has an injury that keeps him from having a child, too bad. The VA won't help.

It should be one of the basic tenants of caring for our veterans: if it breaks in service to our country, the nation should pay to fix it — or do whatever is closest. You break it, you buy it.

But the government doesn’t always agree.

When it comes to having kids, military vets with reproductive injuries have long been left out in the cold.  IVF is simply not covered by the VA. And while one lawmaker has repeatedly offered legislation to change that, it never gets the traction it needs to become law.

Why? The price tag.

In vitro fertilization, commonly known as IVF, is a process in which a woman’s eggs are removed from her body, fertilized and implanted. A 1980s-era law bars the VA from paying for the procedure. Conservative lawmakers at the time were concerned that embryos produced through IVF would be trashed.

But today the opposition stems from the cost. IVF can run upwards of $15,000 per round — and sometimes requires multiple attempts. If the VA covered it, that would be a lot of additional healthcare money coming out of a system already strapped for cash. And while it is, without question, the best hope of a biological child for service members with genital or spine injuries, few with power to change the system seem to care.

Instead, couples are left to pay for it themselves.

This issue comes up in the mainstream press every now and then. The Washington Post ran a story last May. PBS News Hour ran a story early this week that you can watch below. We’ve even posted a first person post from an impacted wounded warrior spouse.

Some detractors against allowing the VA to offer IVF say that having a biological child is not a right, and that adoption is always an option for wounded warriors who want children but cannot have their own. Others point out that Tricare does not currently cover IVF either (although expanding the law to allow for that coverage is reported to be a part of an upcoming Force of the Future proposal).

Still, the problem could seem as cut and dry as the no-questions asked decision by the VA to cover prosthetics for amputees — another high cost process, also necessitated by a war injury. If a doctor can show that a veteran cannot have children because of his war injury, why shouldn’t VA-supplied medicine foot the bill to fix it?

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.
  • Keireann

    Thank you for your article and drawing attention to this topic. While you are right that TRICARE does not generally cover IVF, they will cover it for wounded warriors with service connected infertility. This is important because it demonstrates that DoD has already deemed IVF coverage appropriate for wounded service members. Expanding IVF coverage to the VA simply expands this policy to ensure continuity of coverage once the wounded warrior transitions to veteran status – a time that is often more conducive to starting a family vs. shortly after the injury when the service member is still on active duty.

  • guest

    Having a child is a CHOICE, it is not a right. If you wanted kids, have the sperm, eggs, whatever frozen BEFORE the deployment. IVF should in no way, shape, or form, be covered by the tax payers. Where does it stop, next it’s going to be every person with infertility wanting equal rights to coverage, not just those that are injured. In a time where we are cutting soldiers and programs (including talk of cutting Tricare) due to budget cuts, people want the DoD spending millions on infertility treatments…aka treatments that are not necessary for individual health like prosthetics are. Sorry I’d rather see money going to helping actual service members be able to lead an independent life vs money being spent on an unnecessary procedure. If you can’t afford the treatment to have a kid…you probably can’t afford the kid, plain and simple.

    • Gary

      Yeah. I needed a records review before deploying to Afghanistan after being hit by a car. All they needed to do was a simple 5 minute interview, and the nurse to sign off. It took two weeks. Tough when you go to any active military clinic. Packed with kids. I equate it to a dartboard. The deploying soldier’s needs are the bullseye, then outward it should be the other active duty element, retirees, then family members. IVF, wow, that is really stretching it.

    • docrick

      go ahead , then there will be thousands of wives wanting care,, but the VA has lots of money to share, albeit it will take some of the care away from the veteran

    • Jersey Jeanne

      AMEN..For every IVF the VA could issue 10 wheelchairs to Wounded Warriors and other Vterans who served other ERAS needing them. These Wounded Warriors really need those wheelchairs to live their life. A child is not something necessry for someone to live their life. This law would only help MALE Wounded Warriors not Female Wounded Watrriors as a female Wounded Warrior would have lost the ability to carry and bear a child. Again it would be a law for MALE Wounded Warriors not female Wounded Warriors. Hey IVF is usually something that is used if the female..ie the Wounded Warrior’s wife isn’t fertile. If a baby is so important, then try artificial insemination,it may be an older method, but has proven to be successful and a whole lot less costly..

      • Jersey Jeanne

        BTW I am a Wheelie, injured on duty with a T-12farcture(service connected) as wellas MS (service connected) who served during the Cold War. Myfellow veterans who need wheelchairs could benefit greatly from VHA funds being focused to the greaater need thn the need of one..

  • You Gotta be kidding me

    Did you really just compare prosthetics to IVF TREATMENT? How? They are not even on the same scale! But let me school you little girl. There are Vietnam Vets who are battling Hep C and the VA won’t cover the 80k bill for the CURE and you’re huffing about treatments something UNNECESSARY and not guaranteed. Having a bio baby doesn’t make any two people more of a family than the couple who adopted a dog, or baby instead. BUT this cure like those prosthetics maintain a quality of life… You know something they were used to and had before.

    • Amy_Bushatz

      Sir — I compared war injuries.

      • guest

        No, you attempted to compare war injuries, instead it came across as entitlement. Prosthetic devices are necessary for a badly injured service member to have a functional life, one that doesn’t have them relying on other people for tasks such as going to the bathroom, feeding oneself, washing oneself, walking with a loved one etc.

        Please explain to us how IVF treatment is even anywhere on the same level? One doesn’t NEED to have a child to put food in their mouth in the way one might need a prosthetic arm to do so, one doesn’t NEED to have a child to help them in the restroom like they may need a prosthetic arm, leg, or wheelchair will.

        An argument I hear time and again is that a couple can’t be “happy” without a child. Well, if you can’t be happy spending time with just your spouse, without a child in the picture, then you married the wrong spouse and bringing IVF and a child into a potentially doomed marriage isn’t smart to begin with. And, as others have pointed out, adoption is ALWAYS an option (and one that is federally subsidized as well).

        • docrick

          there are too many babies now, no need to pay big bucks for more..

  • Thatperson

    What I want to know is are there barriers to adoption for these wounded warriors? I think there may be. Not just financially, but legally. Will they all, especially those with combat related PTSD be approved for adoption? I tend to think quite possibly not.
    I don’t know what the right answer here is, but I have a gut check on we may just want the DNA of heroes perpetuated for our own welfare. A lot of morons breed hourly. I’d rather we pay for this than the fourth child of a serially pregnant single mother.

    • guest

      If the PTSD is bad enough that they wouldn’t be approved for adoption, then did anyone stop to think that maybe they should be focusing on the SM’s issues, and funneling that money into PTSD treatment, instead of pouring all those resources into having a kid? And not every service member is a hero darling, some of them are just as normal or bad as everyone else out there. Serving doesn’t automatically make someone a hero…if it did we would have such high rates of child porn, neglect and abuse in the military.

      • Thatperson

        The article was about IVF for wounded warriors not every service member. I consider wounded warriors heroes, you don’t, your loss. As for the legality of PTSD in adoption I am asking a legitimate question. PTSD runs a gamut of levels of severity, but mental health and medications are frequently considered in adoption proceedings. A person could be stable according to the VA and a judge or CPS agency deny adoption on the diagnosis alone.

        • guest

          Again, just because someone is a wounded warrior, doesn’t automatically make them a hero and a stellar person or there wouldn’t be cases of veterans going on rampages, abusing children, etc. People with mild PTSD are able to adopt children, just as people with treated mental illnesses such as depression, can.

          If the PTSD or mental illness is severe then NO they should NOT be bringing children into the situation, either through IVF or adoption. And seriously…IVF is more then likely going to be for the WIFE…NOT the person that actually served so we are paying for wives to get knocked up without one ounce of actual work being given to the government in return.

          • Thatperson

            Unfortunately, I think your blinding hatred of military wives is making it impossible for you to have a logical discussion. Your “more than likely” is largely inaccurate. Numerous combat injuries can make the male service member either impotent or unable to otherwise complete the act of fertilization. The article references such wounded warriors. What you are saying is if someone loses their ability to procreate do to combat injury the VA should not augment this as it does ANY OTHER physical injury. That is just bull mallarky. If the service member was not impotent or otherwise incapable of procreation prior to injury than it is morally imperative that the country that sent that service member to war.. augment that injury. Period.

          • guest

            I am a military wife, so no blinding hatred there hun. And NO, “more than likely” is NOT inaccurate. What do you call a treatment that fertilizes an egg and puts it into a WIFE…an unnecessary procedure that has no physical benefit to the actual wounded warrior (with the exception of female service members). If they are injured badly enough to not be able to complete fertilization the tens of thousands of dollars that would be spent on IVF are much better spent on therapies, devices and in home health aids…things that aren’t always currently funded and are more important to daily function then a child is.

            A child is NOT essential for a normal daily functioning life, plain and simple. And the VA DOES compensate for loss of sexual function in disability payments. Why aren’t said veterans wives using that money that the taxpayers already pay, and putting it towards IVF if that is a priority.If a child is of that much importance, the service member and their partner have the option of freezing eggs sperm etc prior to a deployment on their own dime, just like the rest of the world.

            If the VA had boundless funding and no real problems like wounded warriors DYING because they can’t get appointments or drug cures, then yea fund IVF…but frankly most taxpayers would probably rather see the actual service members receiving proper care and mental health treatment instead of spending the money to have a wife get knocked up.

          • Thatperson

            You are aware how procreation works, right? I call a treatment where an egg is taken from a female to be fertilizéd medically and then reimplanted in the female BECAUSE the male can not fertilize said egg due to combat injury.. A procedure directly used to treat the male’s infertility. If the woman could get pregnant were she to have another partner outside the wounded warrior, then the treatment isn’t for her physically it is for the male’s inability to fertilize the egg. At any rate, the VA works really hard to service legitimate claims. Its amazing how your viewpoint changes when you go the VA sometimes daily for months with someone who was shot in action 4 times (my Dad) vs. watching the carrying on that goes on by people without legitimate injury. We’re talking about men with actual catastrophic injury here, their needs are what the VA is intended to do, not every whiner looking for a percentage. But that is a topic for an entirely different day.

          • guest

            So I assume you would be OK with them no longer treating your dads injuries right? Because the funding for IVF has to come from somewhere. So where are they going to get it from, cutting off older veterans who have already received years of care? Not funding trial research for prosthetics? Not funding research on how to potentially FIX a sexual injury? Not hiring more mental health professionals? Not building new treatment facilities? Not covering expensive medications?

            See, all THOSE things would benefit an actual soldiers well being, and potentially save lives. You know what DOESN’T do that? Paying to knock up a wife.

  • Dennis Reiley

    No! The government already provides compensation for disabled veterans. It’s stupid compensating a veteran twice. Health care yes, but not elective procedures.

  • Rudyh

    Ms Amy…strongly recommend vet couple (hetero)..Adopt children…plain truth solution..hmm?

    • Lisa

      I’d say yes to adoption but that there is no reason that it should be just for heterosexual couples. I’d recommend a loving couple no matter their genders.

  • flapkatt

    Absolutely not! As others have noted, IVF is a very high cost process, and often there must be numerous attempts made, without a guarantee of success. The process can be painful, and commitment to the entire program 100%, But the VA is not the place to look for funding. Amputation, burns, blinding, PTSD, -these are conditions for which the prosthetics are already available, and cost effective, as well as permitting the injured to recover enough to function independently, or with minimal assist. Couples choose to have children or not. lBut just because one thinks they may want a baby doesn’t mean VA should pay for this experimental process. It sickens me, because there are vets who need care or expertise beyond the staffing systems in VA, which means getting private practice clinics as providers. No, when injuries are severe, VA must be able to meet the needs of those with true disabilities. Infertility is NOT an injury, it is a fail. You won’t die from it, and you won’t require it just to bathe or dress yourself. I understand it is emotionally charged, but again, not life threatening or daily living impairment. VA is for veterans. NOT for their potentially infertile spouses. Where does the gimme entitlement attitude stop, if this ridiculous concept is allowed?

  • twebb

    Wow! Prisoners can whine and get gender reassignment surgery for free, but our precious veterans (or any military member for that matter) can’t get assistance with IVF without meeting ridiculous requirements. Disgusting.

  • Think carefully, there are thousands of wives wanting care,but needs lots of money to share, albeit it will take some of the care away from the veteran