Duckworth, Murray, Larsen, Jacobs Reintroduce Legislation to Expand Fertility Treatments, Help Veterans Start Families
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)—former Chair of the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee—as well as U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen (D-WA-02) and Sara Jacobs (D-CA-51) reintroduced the Veteran Families Health Services Act of 2023, comprehensive legislation that would expand fertility treatments and family-building services—such as in vitro fertilization, which Duckworth relied on to have her two daughters—for servicemembers and Veterans. The legislation would ensure servicemembers’ and Veterans’ healthcare coverage includes—among other things—the option for individuals to cryopreserve their gametes (freeze their eggs or sperm) ahead of deployment to a combat zone and in vitro fertilization (IVF) for servicemembers and Veterans who are unable to conceive without assistance. Duckworth served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years and serves on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.
“We must do everything we can to make sure our Veterans receive the care and benefits they have earned, and that includes helping them fulfill their dreams of having a family,” said Senator Duckworth. “I wouldn’t be a mother today without the miracle of IVF, which is one reason why I’m proud to be introducing this important bill with Senator Murray that would help modernize our healthcare systems as well as expand fertility treatment and counseling offerings at the VA.”
“When injuries incurred in the line of duty leave American servicemembers and veterans without the ability to conceive, it’s obvious that we should be doing everything we can to provide the support and the options they need to build their families—whether that’s IVF, adoption assistance, or other fertility treatments,” said Senator Murray. “Servicemembers and veterans have sacrificed so much for our country—but they shouldn’t have to sacrifice their ability to start a family. As the daughter of a veteran, I take my responsibility as the voice for Washington state’s veterans and their families seriously and will keep fighting to help veterans get the full spectrum of care they need.”
“America’s women and men in uniform sacrifice greatly. They should not have to sacrifice their dreams of having children and building a family,” said Representative Rick Larsen. “Congress should take the long-overdue step of permanently overturning outdated limitations on IVF to give servicemembers and veterans the opportunity to start a family.”
“Signing up to serve your country shouldn’t mean you’re signing away your dreams to have a family – but that’s the case for too many service members and veterans,” said Representative Sara Jacobs. “I’m incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to freeze my eggs in my first year of Congress and strongly believe that everyone should have the ability to create their own families when and how it is best for them. That’s why I’m proud to co-lead this important bicameral legislation to expand adoption options and IVF for our service members and veterans. This is one powerful way that we can give back to those who’ve given so much for us.”
While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) currently offer some forms of fertility treatment and counseling, these offerings are extraordinarily limited and difficult for Veterans to access, even when they are technically eligible—and far too often, these benefits fail to meet the needs of servicemembers and Veterans.
The Veteran Families Health Services Act would expand VA and DoD’s current fertility treatment and counseling offerings in a major way and empower servicemembers and Veterans to start families when the time is right for them. This legislation would:
- Allow servicemembers to cryopreserve (freeze) their gametes (eggs or sperm) before deployment to a combat zone or hazardous duty assignment and after an injury or illness—an important proactive fertility service that is not currently covered under DoD healthcare.
- Permanently authorize and significantly expand fertility treatment and counseling options, including assisted reproductive technology like IVF, to more Veterans and servicemembers and ensure that Veterans’ and servicemembers’ spouses, partners and gestational surrogates are appropriately included in eligibility rules.
- Right now, only individuals who are married to opposite-sex partners that can provide gametes for IVF are eligible for IVF services under DoD or VA healthcare—this excludes all unmarried Veterans and servicemembers whose partners are infertile, the same sex or unable to provide gametes. This legislation would allow Veterans and servicemembers to use gestational surrogates for covered IVF services for the very first time. Additionally, the legislation would remove onerous burdens of proof that currently make it very difficult for many Veterans to access IVF services even when they do meet the requirements.
- Expand adoption assistance at VA, providing more family-building options for Veterans with infertility.
- Provide support for servicemembers and Veterans to navigate their fertility options, find a provider that meets their needs and ensure continuity of care after a permanent change of station or relocation.
- Direct VA and DoD to facilitate research on the long-term reproductive health needs of Veterans.
In addition to Duckworth and Murray, the legislation is cosponsored in the Senate by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
In addition to Larsen and Jacobs, the legislation is cosponsored in the House by U.S. Representatives Gerald Connolly (D-VA-11), Debbie Dingell (D-MI-06), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA-06), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08), James McGovern (D-MA-02), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-At Large), Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05) and Dina Titus (D-NV-01).
The Veteran Families Health Services Act is supported by RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, DAV: Disabled American Veterans and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
A copy of the bill text is available here.
Duckworth has made protecting and expanding access to essential reproductive healthcare, including IVF, a top priority. Earlier this year, Duckworth introduced the bipartisan Family Building FEHB Fairness Act, which would expand and protect federal employees’ access to IVF and other assisted reproductive technology (ART) that millions of Americans rely on to have children. Last year, Duckworth also introduced the Right to Build Families Act of 2022, which would protect every American’s right to access IVF and other ART—regardless of their zip code.
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