There comes a day when you wake up and realize you have to stand up and make a difference in this world. Whether small or grand gesture -- there has to be something you believe in and or something you want to help change.
In May I spent a day on Capitol Hill advocating for support for the infertility community as well as for veterans injured in the line of duty who, as a result of their injury, require medical intervention to start a family. And while I have been struggling with infertility for three years now, I have not done in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatments.
I didn’t think my voice would be powerful enough, or my story strong enough to convince our national leaders to make some much-needed change.
I went into this day thinking I would just sit back and let others speak -– boy was I wrong.
I gathered bright and early with others who have dealt with or are currently dealing with infertility. We were together thanks to Resolve.org, the non-profit who spear heads Advocacy Day. Risa Levine, Advocacy Day Chair for 2013, spoke to a room full of men and women from all over the country who were ready to storm the Hill. Her energy and encouragement was exactly what I needed to hear before we headed to the Hill.
“Only when the disease has a face will others understand,” said Levine. And since 1 in 8 couples suffer from some type of infertility issue, there’s a very good chance one of your friends is dealing with or will deal with some type of fertility challenge.
As I walked with my state group to “storm the hill” I was nervous – more so because I volunteered as the spokesperson for infertility and military families when it was our turn to speak to staffers.
As we stood in a misshapen circle in a hallway with a staffer from Senator Tim Kaine’s office my voice shook as I began to speak. I think I stumbled over my first few words.
But then I found my voice. I found the words to share why the Women Veterans & Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2013 is so important, why we need to fight to give female and male veterans who suffered injuries while defending our country medical assistance to start a family.
I struggled not to cry while I shared facts and figures with Senator Kaine’s staffer. Things like “Veterans with severe reproductive and urinary tract injuries and spinal cord injuries often need highly specialized treatments and procedures such as IVF to conceive.” And “IVF is specifically excluded from the VA’s medial benefits package by federal regulation.”
I also told him why passing the Family Act is so important for me as a military spouse suffering from infertility. The Family Act tax credit would make IVF a reality for many military spouses who suffer from infertility as well as the millions of Americans’ who also suffer from this disease. I ended my emotional speech by sharing facts about the Family Act:
-- The Family Act tax credit has a lifetime cap of $12,000 and includes a 50/50 cost share requirement which covers up to half of expenses up to the lifetime cap.
--The Family Act provides financial relief and access to IVF treatment for active duty military personal who do not receive IVF benefits under Tricare.
--The Family Act would also provide a tax credit fro the medical costs of fertility preservation for women and men diagnosed with cancer.
I walked away from our first staffer encounter pumped. I was ready to keep sharing my story and my passion for helping those dealing with infertility. I spent the rest of the day using my voice to educate others.
Spending the day “storming the hill” about something you believe in is something I think every person should do. It was a reminder to me that one person has the ability to make a difference.