A new medical benefits rule allows some veterans to receive in vitro fertilization reproductive help through the Department of Veterans Affairs starting Thursday.
The interim rule, published today in the Federal Register, is the final step in a law change passed late last year to clear the way for veterans who sustained reproductive injuries to receive the expensive fertility help through the VA.
In the past, those with reproductive injuries had access to the procedure, known as IVF, through the Defense Department while they were still on active duty. But the VA was prohibited by a 1980s-era law from offering the treatment. That law meant that former service members and their spouses could no longer receive help once they left the DoD and entered the VA system.
The change brings the VA into line with the coverage offered by the DoD, the rule says. Under it, veterans who have sustained injuries that leave them unable to have children can receive assisted reproductive technologies help, including IVF treatment, it states.
Although the rule is effective today, it is open for public comment until March 20.
According to the rule, the benefit expansion impacts only those who are experiencing infertility as a result of a service-connected disability. That means the treatment is not open to veterans who qualify for general health care through income or their disability rating, but do not have a service-connected reproductive injury.
"Veterans who will receive this benefit are those with a service-connected disability that results in the inability of the veteran to procreate without the use of fertility treatment," the rule says.
The VA does give other fertility help to those who qualify for care but don't necessarily have service-connected reproductive injuries. Those treatments include infertility counseling, blood testing, vasectomy and tubal ligation reversals and medication, the rule says.
Officials with veteran support organizations who advocated for the law change, including the Wounded Warrior Project, welcomed the rule's publication.
"Wounded Warrior Project is pleased the Department of Veterans Affairs will now offer reproductive treatments similar to what active-duty service members already receive," Rob Louis, a Wounded Warrior Project spokesman, said in a statement.
Veterans who want to access the treatment and already have their reproductive injury documented should call their local VA office to schedule an appointment, Louis said.
Those with injuries not already noted as service-connected can contact the Wounded Warrior Project for help filing a claim, he said.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.