Serena H. Chen MD, IRMS at Saint Barnabas, 2015 @DrSerenaHChen
Just got back from Washington DC where I walked a few miles to visit the offices of NJ Senators and Representatives on behalf of two bills: S 469 in the Senate and HR 2257 in the House. I spoke, along with other members from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) to staffers about these bills which give access to our vets for technology they need to build their families. Soldiers that sustain injuries during war that render them infertile are covered for IVF under their benefits through the Department of Defense (DOD) but as soon as they leave active duty their medical care comes under the Veterans Administration (VA) which bans IVF under a very old congressional law that was passed before we knew that IVF would be so helpful in helping so many people have families.
The irony is that many of the injuries that render soldiers infertile also render them unable to remain on active duty and that although the VA is committed to taking care of Vets and giving them medical care for the injuries they sustain while serving their country, the VA is specifically banned from caring for their patients need for IVF.
I have never been a very political person, (have always been a science geek) and like most physicians just want to take care of patients, but this particular situation seems so unjust and unfair that I decided to break out of my comfort zone and come down to DC to learn more about how our government works from ASRM and to understand this issue and help bring it to the attention of our congress.
ASRM showed us a CBS special on this issue that highlighted one soldier who lost one of his legs due to a blast injury, severely injured his other leg and also sustained severe injury to his testicles. He and his new wife really needed IVF to conceive. They are great candidates for the procedure since they are both young, and this young man, while he can play soccer very well on his prosthetic leg and leg brace, is unable to continue in active duty due to his injuries. He receives health care for all of his medical issues from the injury from the VA but his VA doctors are forbidden by law to treat his infertility.
So HR 2257 seeks to just make the infertility benefits that soldiers receive under active duty under the DOD exactly the same as the benefits they would receive once they retire from the military and are under the VA health care system. The senate bill S 469 also seeks to lift this ban and improve fertility coverage in the VA system.
Yesterday it was sunny and beautiful and over 60 degrees on Capitol Hill as I walked from office to office to speak with Congressional staffers who work on veterans affairs, health care and legislative issues about these bills. Most of the staffers agree that it makes sense to support these bills, and as a NJ constituent, I asked for the Representatives and Senators to support these bills and consider cosponsoring them. While a couple agreed that they would cosponsor, many staffers felt that while the bills made sense they would need to research and discuss further before making a commitment. THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN. If you agree that these bills make sense then please let your Representative and Senator know that this is how you feel. As a patient that has struggled with infertility and a constituent, your voice means a lot.
IRMS and ASRM have already created programs to help vets with the costs of infertility. So if you or your partner are a vet, please let us know, we are committed to helping vets access the care they need to have the families they want. For more information please visit us at www.sbivf.com.