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MedTech Nursing Corner: IVF Benefits for Wounded Veterans

Since 2010, DoD policy has afforded active duty military members with service-connected injuries access to IVF services. However, the same provisions have not been in place for US veterans who have not had IVF benefits due to a ban passed by Congress in 1992. On January 19, 2017 and effective immediately, the DoD issued a new rule which will allow for the implementation of assisted reproductive technology benefits, including IVF, for wounded veterans. This change will give those veterans with genitourinary, blast, spinal and brain injuries which keep them from conceiving naturally a chance to bear children again or for the first time. As of now, this change is only effective through the 2018 fiscal year.

Over 50,000 combat-related injuries have been reported in men and women who have served in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Of these injuries, one in twenty have affected the genitourinary tract and involve trauma to this region of the body. Additionally, spinal cord injuries, pelvic fractures, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury are also major causes of infertility and often require IVF for child-bearing.

Between 2000-2013 close to 2,000 service men and women were reported as having sustained debilitating injuries to their genitourinary tract and more than 300,000 service members suffered from a head injury that could affect their sexual function. According to a study in the Journal of Trauma published in 2010, the average casualty age of these service members was 26 years old. It has also been estimated that one in five combat veterans will develop PTSD which can have negative effects on sexual function thus leading to infertility.

ASRM released a bulletin announcement yesterday celebrating this new rule as the society has worked very closely with legislators and RESOLVE over the last few years to see that this gap in coverage is amended. In the bulletin, ASRM encourages IVF clinics to work with the VA to ensure that these families can start receiving the IVF services as outlined in the new DoD rule.

The statistics are staggering and its clear to see how so many veterans are in need of IVF services. The implications of this change are tremendous and have the ability to positively affect thousands of US veteran families struggling to have children after service-connected injuries. Over the next year or two, your practice will likely see a surge in wounded veterans and their partners seeking care for their infertility. The VA is still working to establish a system to provide these new benefits to veterans and the IVF care-team will be critical in helping these patients navigate this new territory.

Sources:

J Trauma. 2010; 69: S175-S178