Se­na­tor: VA should pay for in vitro

Austin American-Statesman - - BALANCED VIEWS - Byalexan­dra Zavis Los An­ge­les Times

Army Staff Sgt. Matt Kiel was shot while on pa­trol in Iraq just six weeks af­ter his wed­ding. Doc­tors said he would be on a ven­ti­la­tor for the rest of his life and would never again move his arms or legs — dash­ing his hopes of rais­ing a fam­ily.

But within months of his in­juries five years ago, Kiel was breath­ing on his own and had re­gained enough func­tion in his left arm to op­er­ate a mo­tor­ized wheel­chair. Doc­tors said he and his wife, Tracy, could start a fam­ily through in vitro fer­til­iza­tion.

The cou­ple were over­joyed, un­til they dis­cov­ered that the De­part­ment of Veter­ans Af­fairs does not cover the costly pro­ce­dure.

Kiel, 31, is among a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of veter­ans whose war wounds make it dif­fi­cult for them to have chil­dren. Ad­vances in bat­tle­field medicine mean troops are sur­viv­ing cat­a­strophic wounds in Iraq and Afghanistan that might have killed their pre­de­ces­sors in ear­lier wars.

More than 1,900 ser­vice mem­bers have suf­fered such in­juries since 2003, ac­cord­ing to Pen­tagon data pro­vided to U.S. Sen. Patty Mur­ray, DWash. Most are men, but they in­clude a grow­ing num­ber of women. Many could ben­e­fit from in vitro fer­til­iza­tion, which is why Mur­ray is push­ing for the VA to cover the pro­ce­dure.

“Pro­vid­ing this ser­vice is a cost of war,” Mur­ray said. “There is ab­so­lutely no rea­son we should make th­ese veter­ans, who have sac­ri­ficed so much, wait any longer to be able to re­al­ize their dreams of start­ing or grow­ing their fam­i­lies.”

The VA does cover fer­til­ity coun­sel­ing, di­ag­nos­tic tests and some pro­ce­dures for veter­ans with ser­vice-con­nected in­juries.

But for the most se­verely wounded, more ad­vanced treat­ments are needed, said Dr. Lori Mar­shall, med­i­cal di­rec­tor at Seat­tle-based Pa­cific North­west Fer­til­ity and IVF Spe­cial­ists.

“Most of the men and women who suf­fer th­ese in­juries are young and should have very high success rates,” Mar­shall said. A com­plete cy­cle of in vitro fer­til­iza­tion typ­i­cally costs be­tween $12,000 and $20,000.

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