Legislation that would provide fertility benefits to seriously wounded veterans has been reintroduced in the new Senate by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Under the proposed bill, veterans who have suffered severe injuries to their reproductive and urinary tract systems, or received debilitating spinal cord injuries, would be eligible for counseling and advanced treatments like vitro fertilization and intra-uterine insemination. Their spouses or surrogates also would be eligible.
The proposal, Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvements Act of 2013, is similar to a bill championed by Murray late last year that met opposition because the cost would have been borne by wartime contingency funds.
The previous bill sailed through the Senate despite reservations from two prominent Republicans, Thad Cochran of Mississippi and John McCain of Arizona, who opposed the measure's proposed funding source but did not block passage.
It failed in the House when Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the House Veterans' Affairs Committee chairman, refused to move on it because of the contingency operations funding issue. At the time, Miller said he would consider the proposal if a different funding source could be found.
"I am hopeful we can work on this issue to provide an outcome that not only supports our wounded and their families but also doesn't put our troops in the field in further danger," Miller said Dec. 31.
Murray now proposes to cover the bill's cost by allowing the Veterans Affairs Department to levy fees on large corporations that contract with VA.
"There is absolutely no reason that this bill should not move quickly to the president's desk," Murray said in a prepared statement. "It was passed unanimously in the Senate, and the House has a responsibility to our most seriously wounded veterans and their spouses to act. These are veterans who have sustained serious and deeply impactful wounds and who are simply asking for help to begin a family. We owe them nothing less."
The benefit would cost roughly $568 million over the next five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
About 1,800 veterans would qualify, most injured by improvised explosive devices. Their average age is 26, according to the Joint Theater Trauma Registry.
Tricare covers some fertility care for injured or medically retired service members, but it does not pay for implantation or specialized care for the spouse in most cases.
The bill also would give VA the ability to provide child care services at medical centers. Female veterans have cited the lack of child care during appointments as one of the reasons they don't seek medical care.
Staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=Question from ArmyTimes.com reader">Rick Maze contributed to this report.