Health Care

VA expands IVF access to single veterans, same-sex couples

The previous VA law required veterans who want to access IVF care to be married and able to produce gametes.

Lab staff prepare small petri dishes holding embryos.
SMS

The Department of Veterans Affairs is removing many of its restrictions regarding IVF benefits, allowing unmarried veterans and those in same-sex relationships access to expanded care for the first time.

Current law requires all veterans using the VA's IVF services to be unable to procreate without the help of fertility treatments because of a health condition caused by their military service. It also could only provide the services to legally married veterans who could produce gametes — or both eggs and sperm — within their relationship.

Now with the revised policy, announced Monday, eligible veterans can access IVF benefits no matter their marital status or if they need to use donor eggs, sperm or embryos to conceive. 

The VA said the expanded care rules are a critical step in helping veterans who are unable to produce embryos due to service-connected injuries and health conditions, as well as part of its continuing efforts to help veterans wishing to grow their families.

"Raising a family is a wonderful thing, and I'm proud that VA will soon help more veterans have that opportunity," VA Secretary Denis McDonough said. "This expansion of care has long been a priority for us, and we are working urgently to make sure that eligible unmarried veterans, veterans in same-sex marriages and veterans who need donors will have access to IVF in every part of the country as soon as possible."

Alabama gov. signs bill protecting IVF providers from legal liability
Alabama gov. signs bill protecting IVF providers from legal liability

Alabama gov. signs bill protecting IVF providers from legal liability

Lawmakers passed the bill in response to the state Supreme Court ruling that said frozen embryos are equal to children.

LEARN MORE

The expanded policy, expected to be implemented nationwide in the coming weeks, comes as access to reproductive care is widely being condensed elsewhere, both with post-Roe legal complications and in the aftermath of Alabama's Supreme Court declaring embryos as children. 

The VA says it does provide abortion services when the life of the veteran would be endangered by a full-term pregnancy and in cases of rape or incest.

As for IVF care, the VA says this expansion is a result of years of advocacy and denied legislative proposals for IVF care expansion. But the change also comes months after the National Organization for Women, the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic and the National Veterans Legal Services Program sued the VA and the Department of Defense, claiming their IVF policies were discriminatory against same-sex couples and single veterans.

The DoD later said it would remove its requirements involving marriage and gametes, and in January, the VA said it would align its terms with the amended DoD policy.

Soon after the lawsuit was filed, the VA also said it was expanding veterans' access to post-partum care from eight weeks to a year — a decision it said was a "key step" in improving maternal outcomes for veterans, as maternal mortality rates have reached record levels.

Veterans are already eligible for a slew of other reproductive health services like OB-GYN care, access to contraceptives, fertility evaluation and cervical cancer screenings, the VA said. It also covers up to $2,000 of adoption fees for veterans with a service-connected disability affecting fertility, though it doesn't cover surrogacy expenses.