Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs lift IVF barriers for some LGBTQ members

The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans' Affairs have updated their policies on IVF and donors.
The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs have updated their policies on IVF and donors.
Department of Defense

The Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) have updated their policies to allow service members and veterans in same-sex marriages and those who are unmarried to have access to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) — as long as they are eligible.

Until this point, service members and veterans could only access IVF services if they could not procreate without using fertility treatment due to a health condition stemming from their military service. Furthermore, the DoD and VA also limited IVF to married veterans who could produce their eggs and sperm.

However, both the DoD and VA are broadening the policy to allow IVF services to veterans regardless of whether or not they are married and to allow donor eggs, sperm, and embryos. 

“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 in a written statement. “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.”

Still, a key limitation remains in place: For both departments, eligibility is limited to those who suffered injuries during their military service, according to the National Organization for Women–New York City (NOW-NYC), which had filed a federal lawsuit last August that led to the policy changes. 

“Even though infertility is significantly higher within the military community than in the general population, it is not easy to meet DoD and VA’s strict criteria to show that fertility issues are directly linked to military service,” said Briana Thompson, a law student who is interning at the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School and a former Air Force officer. “Service members who delay child-rearing and need IVF because of basic demands of military life, like deployments and permanent changes of station, are ineligible for care. These stringent requirements are unlawful, out of step with IVF benefits provided to other federal employees, and antithetical to the centrality of the military family to readiness.”

NOW-NYC is pledging to continue its litigation against the VA and DoD until the agencies lift the eligibility requirement. For now, though, NOW-NYC executive director Sonia Ossorio is welcoming the initial changes. 

“We applaud Veterans Affairs for moving quickly to provide equal access to IVF fertility treatments for all vets regardless of whether they are single, married, straight or gay,” Ossorio said.