Veterans with reproductive injuries will be able to access fertility help and have some adoption expenses covered after 2018 if a funding proposal goes forward.
The funding bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs approved by a House committee last week gives the agency approval to continue funding in-vitro fertilization after the current 2018 expiration. A 2016 law lifted a longtime ban on the coverage but is set to expire at the end of 2018 if Congress takes no further action.
The bill also extends the VA's authority to provide the same adoption reimbursements for veterans that active-duty troops receive through the Defense Department.
The VA began coverage for in-vitro fertilization, which can cost up to $12,000 per attempt, in mid-January with the publication of a set of coverage rules in the Federal Register.
VA adoption expense reimbursement, however, has yet to start because the department has not issued a coverage policy. Officials said they are in the process of creating that rule.
"An interim final rule on reimbursement of adoption expenses has been drafted and is being circulated through VA's internal concurrence process with a request for expedited review," Randal Noller, a VA spokesman, said in a statement.
The law establishing the VA adoption benefit says it should mirror the DoD's adoption reimbursement program. That means when the policy is final, it will reimburse qualifying veterans for up to $2,000 in expenses per child, with a limit of $5,000 per calendar year. The process for being reimbursed, as well as other details, will likely be addressed in that VA policy.
Before becoming law, the funding proposal must be approved by the Senate and then signed by the president, a process likely to stretch into this fall. The bill does not include a specific funding level for the benefits.
"Paralyzed Veterans of America is gratified to see language that allows veterans seeking adoption as a means to become parents carried over for consideration in the FY2018 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill," Carl Blake, the group's associate director of government affairs, said in a statement. "Many veterans have used adoption services at great personal cost to themselves and their spouses. No one understands this cost more than catastrophically disabled veterans with spinal cord injury or disease."
To qualify for VA fertility or adoption help, veterans must have sustained service-connected injuries that leave them unable to have children. That means the treatment is not open to veterans who qualify for general health care through income or disability rating but who do not have a service-connected reproductive injury.
The VA gives 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 final IVF rule states.
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.