Fertility Treatment for the Military
Who Needs It and Why
Service in the U.S. military entitles active duty personnel and veterans to medical coverage. However, benefits do not include IVF or most other fertility treatments unless the service member had a serious illness or injury while on active duty which caused him or her to lose natural reproductive ability, according to TRICARE.
There are many reasons why military personnel and veterans who have not had such an illness or injury may need fertility treatment, and as many reasons why that treatment is not readily available to them.
Deployment for months at a time makes it more difficult for both personnel and their spouses to become pregnant. Multiple deployments, which have become more common, greatly increase the amount of time they spend apart. The stress on relationships is also a factor in making intimacy more problematic. For women, the biological clock keeps ticking while on deployment. Delaying childbirth may result in infertility due to age.
Difficulty and Expense of Treatment
Active duty military personnel may find they don’t have the flexibility of scheduling which is often needed to pursue IVF treatment. The expense can be cost-prohibitive, as well, since TRICARE won’t cover it unless the service member had an illness or injury causing infertility, and military salaries are not overly generous. Duty assignments may result in staying in barracks or tents rather than in married persons’ housing or their own homes. The resulting lack of privacy complicates giving injections and safely storing fertility medications.
The National Military Family Association says they often get inquiries about assisted reproductive technology (ART) services. A report to Congress in 2015 recognized six military treatment facilities (MTFs) which collaborate with civilian partners to provide ART services, including IVF. Military personnel have to pay out-of-pocket for those services not provided by the MTF, which average about $5,000 per IVF cycle. These facilities provide fertility treatment as part of their graduate medical education programs. Wait time to get in one of the programs ranges from none to up to one year.
What if military personnel don’t live near one of these facilities? Some fertility centers are participating in the “Serving Our Veterans” program and offer discounts of up to 25 percent for veterans. For veterans and others who need fertility treatment, WINFertility offers discounted treatment and financing for treatment at fertility centers in its network.