The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation approving the Veterans Affairs Department to cover IVF treatments, but stopped short of providing funding for the measure.
The bill now heads to the president's desk to be signed into law.
The VA had been prohibited under an early 1990s-era law from paying for in vitro fertilization, or IVF, treatments. Language included in a stop-gap funding bill, called a continuing resolution, funding the government through December allows the department to start providing the service. However, the measure doesn't earmark money to pay for it.
That means the VA will have to come up with the funding itself from other accounts. And while the new law effectively lifts the coverage ban for troops who sustained reproductive injuries while serving, officials haven't announced if or when they plan to start offering the services.
A previously proposed bill included $80 million in funding for IVF services, though the Congressional Budget Office estimated that it could cost the VA up to $145 million per year. That measure was derailed last spring when lawmakers couldn't agree on separate funding for Zika virus research.
An estimated 1,800 former troops may qualify for the benefit. The military health care program Tricare covers the procedure for injured troops while they are still on active duty.
A coalition of veterans organizations, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project and Veterans of Foreign Wars, lobbied for the change and funding. Coalition officials said although they are pleased that some legislation finally passed, there is still work to do.
"The inclusion of Assistive Reproductive Technologies in this year's Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill finally starts to give the VA the resources to help wounded veterans start and grow families," Allison Jaslow, chief of staff at Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said in a statement. "This benefit is long overdue, but this is only the first step."
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.