Hampton Roads residents advocating in vitro fertilization for military veterans

Posted at 9:37 PM, May 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-12 00:04:12-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Servicemen and women who are wounded in war try to start a new life. They have dreams of having a family of their own, but can't. More than 200 people gathered in Capitol Hill Wednesday, asking Congress to support bills to help military members and veterans start families of their own.

The Veterans Administration is banned from offering in vitro fertilization treatments to veterans. Meaning if military members are hurt while serving and those injuries keep them from being able to have children naturally, there's no financial help and in many cases, no hope for having kids on their own.

Shelbi and Jason Mackenzie of Norfolk got married six years ago, but their family is incomplete because they have been battling infertility.

"My husband and I have been trying to have our family and build our family for the last 3 ½ years. Because he is active duty military, it`s been difficult to coordinate that between deployments," said Shelbi.

Jason has a high-risk job and Shelbi said she worries when he comes home after deployments, they may not be able to get pregnant naturally.

"It's scary to me even though we`re active duty, but even more if he were to retire, we don`t have options. There are limited options for IVF," said Shelbi.

In vitro fertilization has an estimated success rate of 40 percent and the average cost per cycle is more than $12,000. Shelbi said it's disheartening to think the government doesn't cover the expense for veterans.

"In my mind it's a no brainer. So when you start looking at things and doing the research and you realize there isn't that support and coverage there, it makes you question, it makes you want to go to Capitol Hill, like I did today and start asking people well why aren't you supporting this? Why aren’t you doing everything you can for military families so they can build their families?" said Shelbi.

Shelbi said IVF isn't fully covered and thankfully she has her own insurance to help offset the cost. However, active duty service members usually only have a small window to make decisions.

Staff Sergeant Matthew Keil is a wounded veteran and now paraplegic. He said during that small window, having kids was the last thing on his mind. "We were still trying to wrap our heads around the extent of my injury, what life was going to be life afterward. We weren't immediately thinking we should have kids now."

RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association is calling on Congress to co-sponsor bills to help veterans. S469/HR 3365 will allow veterans to obtain IVF, adoption assistance and other family-budgeting benefits and will improve the fertility care available to active duty and wounded service members. HR 4892 permits qualifying veterans with injuries to their reproductive organs to receive extra compensation up to $20,000.

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