Victory is now reality for wounded veterans seeking to build their families through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and adoption.
In the summer of 2012, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association – along with our fierce advocates and volunteers – intensified our fight for access to needed medical care for veterans who suffered service-related injuries that prevented them from starting or growing their families.
Here is a brief breakdown of how this advocacy campaign for wounded veterans started:
In 1992, the Veterans Administration (VA) was banned from providing IVF coverage to Veterans. At the time, IVF has only been used in the U.S. for eleven years. Since then, there have been many medical advances to the procedure. In addition, there have been significant battlefield medical advances that are helping our service men and women survive more injuries, but often these injuries compromise their fertility. Essentially, when these injured service members returned home, they discovered that their dream of having a family was out of reach because the VA was banned from offering IVF medical treatments.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has been a long-time champion of expanding access to reproductive services to veterans, first with her introduction of legislation three sessions ago, and in this session with S 469, the Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act of 2015. These bills, introduced by Senator Murray and then Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA) in the House of Representatives, gave us something to sink our teeth into. We had a tangible bill we could encourage our advocates to talk about with their Members of Congress.
How exactly did we leverage our advocates and partnerships to make a difference? Let me count the ways…
- RESOLVE provided testimony to House and Senate committees debating this issue since 2012
- Through RESOLVE’s online Action Alert system, 995 letters have been sent to Members of Congress from their constituents on this issue
- RESOLVE has been interviewed by the media and served as a trusted source
- RESOLVE hosted four Advocacy Day events in Washington, D.C., where 654 patients, professionals, and family members met with their members of Congress about this very issue
- RESOLVE staff and volunteers kept the pressure going year-round meeting with countless elected officials educating them on this issue
- RESOLVE hosted Congressional briefings and press events highlighting this issue and educating legislators and the general public
- Using RESOLVE’s vast social media presence we have educated the public and motivated advocates across the country
- RESOLVE advocates shared their stories to help recruit more advocates
- RESOLVE partnered with leading organizations passionate about this issue for Vets which helped strengthen our voice
For our amazing infertility advocates who have attended Advocacy Days, written to the members of Congress, and supported the ongoing fights for access to care, we can say that together our voices mattered and we were heard.
On the evening of September 28, Congress passed legislation that RESOLVE and all infertility advocates have been fighting for years. The MilCon-VA Appropriations bill passed, and it includes an amendment for the VA to offer IVF and adoption assistance for our wounded veterans!
For the infertility community, the term “hope” is sometimes used with apprehension. But on the evening of September 28, we earned a little taste of hope.
So, what’s next?
RESOLVE believes that everyone struggling to have a family deserves access to all family building options. We continue our fight for access to care every day. We know that this one victory is an important first step to increasing access to even more in need.
At RESOLVE’s Night of Hope, we will honor some key individuals and organizations that played a role in bringing awareness to access to care for wounded veterans. On Tuesday, November 15, we will present the Hope Awards for Advocacy to Senator Murray, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, and Paralyzed Veterans of America. The decision to honor these Hope Award recipients was made even before this amazing vote in Congress as we have been partners in this fight for many years.
When I think about this moment in RESOLVE’s history and in the continuing story of people facing infertility, I think Barbara Collura, President/CEO of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association said it perfectly: “RESOLVE advocates are a fierce and passionate group of people. This issue has galvanized our community, including healthcare and industry professionals, to ‘right a wrong’ thrust on our veterans. They fought for us; we were privileged to fight for them.”