Republican Bill Excludes Fertility Treatments For Vets With Genital Wounds

Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, speaks during a news conference with Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican
Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington, speaks during a news conference with Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, not pictured, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. U.S. budget negotiators unveiled an agreement to ease automatic spending cuts by about $60 billion over two years and reduce the deficit by $23 billion, breaking a three-year cycle of fiscal standoffs. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republicans in the Senate on Thursday blocked a $21 billion veterans' benefits bill that was broadly supported by veterans' advocates and offered a less expensive measure in its place. Their version notably does not cover fertility treatment for veterans with severe genital wounds.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has pushed hard to overturn the Department of Veterans Affairs' longstanding ban on covering treatments like in vitro fertilization for wounded vets and their spouses. While the Democrats' bill included her provision, Murray said her Republican colleagues "specifically excluded it" from theirs.

"I've worked with a lot of veterans who just want to have a family like every other young person in the country," Murray told HuffPost. "That's part of their dream, and it's being denied to them because of an extremely horrific injury they've sustained serving our country. It's unfathomable to me that we don't provide the help they need."

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the ranking member on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. But Republicans have previously said they opposed the measure because of its price tag. It would cost roughly $568 million to provide wounded veterans with fertility treatments over the next five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and the money would come out of wartime contingency funds.

The VA has been prohibited from covering fertility treatments for wounded veterans since 1992. If the ban were overturned, about 1,800 veterans would qualify for the service, according to the Joint Theater Trauma Registry. Their average age is 26, and many of them have lost or severely wounded their genitals in IED explosions.

HuffPost's David Wood interviewed a young marine in 2012 who had his testicles blown off in Afghanistan, but was unable to get the coverage he needed to pay for an artificial insemination procedure for his wife. Mark Litynski, then 26, and his wife, Heather, had to pay out of pocket for the procedure.

"This is one ugly hole in the system," Heather Litynski said at the time.

The Senate passed a measure in 2012 that would have overturned the ban on fertility treatment coverage, but Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, refused to advance the House version because of funding issues.

Murray said the cost of the coverage is not a fair reason to deny it to veterans.

"These young veterans have put their bodies and their futures on the line in combat," she said. "I think that giving them back their dream of starting a family should be considered a cost of war.'



Senate Polarization, 1989-2013