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DOD, VA to allow IVF for unmarried people, same-sex couples and more

The departments of defense and veterans affairs now provide in vitro fertilization services to all eligible beneficiaries regardless of their marital status, finalizing changes promised by the federal agencies earlier this year.

The new policies allow anyone who has service-connected infertility to use either department’s program, lifting previous requirements that only married, heterosexual couples using their own sperm and eggs could participate.

Now, eligible troops and veterans can access IVF regardless of their martial status or sexual orientation, and they may use donor eggs or sperm ― changing a policy that previously discriminated against those whose infertility affected their ability to produce gametes.

The reforms were spurred on by a lawsuit filed in August by the Yale Law School and the National Organization for Women’s New York chapter.

“We are grateful to the Defense Department and overjoyed for the service members who, through this policy change, will now be able to access the reproductive healthcare so desperately needed in order to build their families,” Sonia Ossorio, executive director of NOW-NYC, said in a statement Monday.

DOD unveiled its new rules Friday, undoing restrictions that limited Tricare coverage of IVF to married couples only.

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“We continue to identify ways to lean forward as much as we can in support of equity of access to reproductive health care for our service members,” Kimberly Lahm, who directors oversight of the Pentagon’s health affairs office, said in a statement Monday.

Veterans Affairs followed suit shortly thereafter, amending their policies to include married, same-sex couples and unmarried veterans in their IVF program. Officials there said they expect to begin enrolling newly eligible individuals in IVF programs in coming weeks.

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

But the moves don’t address everything in the original lawsuit, which seeks to open IVF access to all troops and veterans, regardless of whether their fertility issues were caused by illness or injury suffered while serving.

“This is substantial progress,” Donovan Bendana, a Yale Law School student representing NOW-NYC and member of the Reproductive Rights and Justice Project, said in a Monday release. “But the onerous requirement of linking infertility to a specific service injury will deny many service members the opportunity to build a family. This is especially arbitrary in light of the military’s decades-long disinterest in studying women’s health, including the impact of service on fertility.”

NOW-NYC intends to continue with the lawsuit, according to the release, seeking to remove all barriers to IVF for troops and veterans using federal health benefits.

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