Veterans Sue Defense Department Alleging Hurdles in Accessing Infertility Treatment


According to lawsuits filed in federal courts in New York and Boston on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have rendered it difficult, and sometimes not possible, for veterans to receive infertility treatments. The petitions seek to hold the United States responsible for creating barriers to health care accessibility for a population with a higher infertility rate than the population as a whole, according to advocates.

Both lawsuits seek coverage for in vitro fertilization for military service members and veterans who do not meet the Department of Veterans Affairs’ definition of infertility, which is restricted to married, heterosexual couples. Renée Mihail, a graduate of West Point and Army veteran, stated in a press release that she has witnessed numerous peers and colleagues struggle with infertility after serving in the military.

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Lawsuits Claim Unjust Denial of Infertility Treatment Coverage for Thousands of Active-Duty Personnel and Veterans

Photo by: Charles Dharapak via AP Photo

According to the lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court against the U.S. Defense Department and the Department of Veteran Affairs, infertility is widespread in the military community, with combat-related injuries, exposure to toxic chemicals and environmental hazards, sexual assault, and post-traumatic stress disorder identified as contributing factors. Thousands of active-duty military personnel and veterans are denied appropriate treatment for starting a family on the basis of discriminatory and arbitrary grounds.

Those seeking coverage for in vitro fertilization, the most effective treatment for infertility, are denied coverage if they are single, unmarried, in a same-sex relationship, or have the same reproductive organs, or if they lack proof that their infertility is related to their service. It sought a judge’s ruling that it is unconstitutional and discriminatory for the United States to deny treatment based on sex, sexual orientation, marital status, or the cause of infertility.

Ashley Sheffield, a veteran of the Air Force, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veteran Affairs in Boston, alleging that she was denied in vitro fertilization treatments because she is married to a woman. Nicole R. Schwegman, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense, stated in an email that it would be inappropriate to comment on pending litigation. A representative for the Justice Department didn’t immediately reply to a request for commentary.

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Source: Fox News, Caledonian Record

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