Senate bill offers fertility care for wounded vets

WASHINGTON — Wounded veterans and their spouses who want to have children could get the government to pay for treatments such as in vitro fertilization under legislation beginning to move through Congress in the waning days of the session.

By voice vote, the Senate passed a bill Thursday to update the Veterans Affairs Department’s medical coverage for one of the signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: trauma to a soldier’s reproductive organs.

Nearly 2,000 service members suffered such wounds between 2003 and 2011. But when wounded veterans went to the VA for medical help in starting a family, they were told the VA doesn’t provide that kind of care.

A similar bill is pending in the House. Supporters said the Senate’s action increases its chances of becoming law before Congress adjourns.

The chief sponsor, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she has heard from veterans whose marriages have dissolved because of the stress of infertility, in combination with the stresses of readjusting to civilian life after severe injury.

“Any service member who sustains this type of serious injury deserves so much more,” she said.

With both chambers deadlocked on budget issues, even Murray was surprised the bill didn’t raise a single objection in the Senate. Any objection would have quashed it for the year.

As Murray spoke, Tracy Keil of Parker, Colo., watched from the gallery. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Matt Keil, was paralyzed from the chest down after he was shot in the neck in Iraq. The Keils were able to afford the nearly $32,000 it cost for in vitro fertilization and now have 2-year-old twins, Matthew and Faith. But knowing that many families cannot afford that on their own, the Keils have been lobbying Congress to expand the VA’s coverage.

“It made us feel like we were back on track, that our marriage was where we wanted it to be and that our family was where we wanted it to be,” she said of having children. “Even though we had the injury disrupt the timeline of our expectations, it’s everything we’ve always dreamed of and it makes Matt feel whole again.”

“We wake up to the joys of our kids every day and I can’t picture my life without them now,” Matt Keil added in a telephone interview.

The legislation is estimated to cost $568 million over five years, to be covered through savings from scaling down military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Rep. Jeff Miller, the Republican chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said he’s anxious to pass the bill this Congress, but he has concerns that the legislation would take money away from troops still fighting in Afghanistan to pay for the new benefit, .

Matt McAlvanah, a spokesman for Murray, said any notion that the funding for fertility treatments would impact troops in the field is false.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., is spearheading efforts in the House to get the legislation passed.

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

Street-legal ATVs approved for some roads near Sultan

Supporters foresee tourism benefits. Opponents are concerned about injury and pollution risks.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

5 teens in custody in drug-robbery shooting death

They range in age from 15 to 17. One allegedly fatally shot a 54-year-old mother, whose son was wounded.

Most Read