A two-decades-old law that states the VA isn’t responsible to cover in vitro fertilization, is holding back Army Staff Sgt. Alex Dillmann and his wife, Holly, from having children.
Alex suffered severe trauma during a patrol in Ghani, when the vehicle he was in hit an IED. He had more than 25 surgeries for his injuries from the blast, which included a broken vertebrae, a punctured lung and severe burns.
The injuries left Alex unable to conceive naturally with his wife, as he was paralyzed from the abdomen down.
The Department of Veterans Affairs paid to customize his truck so he could drive, and gave him a hand cycle for exercises, but what the Dillmanns really yearned for was the chance to have children.
According to the Washington Post, after 2 years of being in and out of hospitals, they decided to start the very costly IVF treatments. Fertility experts claim that it offers the best chance for a biological child for people with genital and spinal cord trauma.
The Dillmanns are not the only couple who are encountering the same problems with having children after the trauma they endured during combat. According to the Pentagon, more than 1,830 troops have suffered injuries to the reproductive organs, in addition to spinal cord injuries, since 2003.
With IVF costing thousands of dollars, and it often taking more than one try to produce a pregnancy, wounded vets say that the process is overwhelming, combined with the new life of dealing with their injuries post-combat.
“At the end of the day, I’m so lucky to be alive. Part of that is this dream to be a parent, but this is a big pill to swallow for all veterans facing combat injuries, which have hurt their chances to have children.” Says 30 year old Alex
After two failed rounds, their next round of IVF will cost almost $25,000. Alex says that if it doesn’t work this time, he is willing to delay his education and his hopes for a job at a national security agency.
According to the WaPo article, the Defense Department changed its policy on covering IVF for active military after seeing an increase in pelvic injuries, but they can only be covered during the time of their injury and discharge from the military.
“The timing was just all wrong. It’s the time when you are trying to learn to shower and get your mind around the fact that you will never walk again. I wasn’t in the position to think about starting a family at that moment,” Said Alex, “Yet the pressure was on.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced a bill that not only let the VA pay for IVF, but also covers adoption and surrogacy. She called the ban on the funding “a shocking gap, outdated and just wrong.”
She said “It’s a bill that recognizes the men and women who are harmed in the service of this country have bright, full lives ahead of them. To me, it’s such a no-brainer. The technology is there now. Why can’t we help them?”
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee said he open to lifting the ban, and created plan of his own that was more limited. It would not cover adoption or a surrogate.
“VA’s goal is to restore, to the greatest extent possible, the physical and mental capabilities of veterans with service-connected injuries,” Victoria Dillon, a VA spokeswoman said. VA officials say they support any new bill that will allow them to pay for wounded vets to have a family.