VA Can't Help Disabled Vets Make Babies Because 'Pro-Lifers' Hate The Troops
The Law of Unintended Consequences is doing its part to make life just a little extra bit awful for disabled vets. A Veterans Administration ban on in vitro fertility treatments (IVF) -- put into place by "pro-life" lawmakers worried about the inalienable rights of frozen fertilized eggs -- means that many injured Iraq and Afghanistan vets can't become parents. This has nothing to do with the VA's notorious backlogs; this is Congress just plain prohibiting the system from providing care.
The Tampa Bay Times brings us the story of Staff Sgt. Alex Dillman and his wife Holly, who are trying to have a baby through IVF, but can't get any help from the VA, because What About the Frozen Blastocysts? Will nobody think of the frozen blastocysts?
VA will not pick up the bill for in vitro fertilization, which fertility experts say offers those with spinal cord and genital injuries the best hope for a biological child.
Under a 23-year-old law, VA is prohibited from covering IVF. Congress adopted the ban as the result of conservative opposition to assisted reproduction and concern that some fertilized embryos might be discarded.
In 2012, the Pentagon changed its policy and began covering IVF because in Iraq and Afghanistan, the enemy's weapon of choice, IEDs, has a particularly nasty tendency to leave soldiers dismembered, with a far higher percentage of injuries to spinal cords, pelvic bones, and genitals than in previous wars. Ah, but there's a catch, and it's a beaut:
[Under] the law, wounded military members can be covered only during a window of time between their injury and their discharge from the military -- a period of hospital stays, surgeries and adjusting to their new post-war bodies. Many wounded veterans describe it as the most stressful and disorienting time of their lives.
"The timing was just all wrong. It's the time when you are trying to learn to shower and get your mind around the fact that you will never walk again. I wasn't in the position to think about starting a family at that moment," Alex said.
Sgt. Dillman survived an IED blast in Afghanistan four years ago and underwent over 25 surgeries; his spinal cord was damaged, and he's now unable to have sex. He finally completed rehab with six months to go before being discharged, and during that time, he and Holly were able to attempt IVF twice, unsuccessfully, with Alex's military coverage. But then, after his discharge, they were subject to a whole different set of rules in the VA system, and so, thanks to congressional fears of abandoned embryosicles, the Dillmans will have to pay for IVF themselves, and are trying to scrape together the $25,000 the next attempt will cost.
The Times also notes that since Congress banned VA funding for IVF, the there have been significant advancements in how is test-tube babby formed; for vets with collateral peen damage, there are more, better ways of getting sperms that don't even require wanking into a cup:
Doctors can now perform "testicular sperm extraction," removing a small portion of tissue from the testicle under local anesthesia and extracting sperm. The sperm is used to fertilize an extracted egg outside the body, and the embryo is then implanted in the womb.
And now -- finally! -- the Nice Time part of the story: members of Congress from both parties are open to changing the VA rule. Maybe:
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has called the ban on funding for this process "a shocking gap, outdated and just wrong" and introduced a bill to let VA pay for IVF. The measure also would cover the costs of surrogate pregnancies and adoption.
"It's a bill that recognizes the men and women who are harmed in the service of this country have bright, full lives ahead of them," she said. "To me, it's such a no-brainer. The technology is there now. Why can't we help them?"
Murray's proposal ran into opposition from Republicans who objected to the cost -- by shifting funds from combat operations to baby-making, quite literally making love instead of war -- but some Republicans are open to changing the VA rules, just as long as no money is taken away from the important job of killing bad guys. So it's possible that sometime soon, Alex and Holly Dillman will be able to get themselves a baby without having to pay out of pocket for the IVF treatments; if they have a boy, they've agreed that the kid's middle name will be "Kristopher," after Alex's best friend who was killed in the IED explosion that injured Alex. Now all they need is for the right combination of Congressidiots to find a way to pay for it that won't divert money from taking lives and that won't upset the fetus fetishists too much.
[Tampa Bay Times / Image Credit: From "Casualties of War" by Dorothy]
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.