Rich Vaughn Blog: Fertility Services for Wounded Vets Mired in Reproductive Politics

Fertility Services for Wounded Vets Mired in Reproductive Politics

After a valiant five-year battle, U.S. Senator Patty Murray succeeded last month in winning Senate approval of an $88 million appropriation over the next two years to pay for fertility treatments for wounded veterans whose injuries, such as genital or spinal cord injuries, resulted in their inability to have children without the use of assisted reproductive technology.  The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2017 passed the House on June 23 and now moves to the Senate. While House Republicans voted to keep the provision fertility treatment for veterans intact, it cut funding for veteran care by $500 million, Murray noted in a prepared statement.

Republican Rep. Jeff Miller has offered a different approach to providing fertility care for wounded veterans. His latest bill, introduced this spring, would give veterans currently receiving a disability payment for “creative organ” disabilities an additional $20,000 to use as they wished. Veterans could use the $20,000 payment to offset the cos t of fertility services. Murray has expressed opposition to the $20,000 disability payment because it does not remove the ban on funding veteran fertility services and provides the one-time payment only to a particular group of veterans.

The unresolved skirmishes are only battles in the larger political war over reproductive health services. Since 1992 regulations have banned the U.S. Veterans Administration from offering in vitro fertilization treatments as a medical benefit. Murray, who has been fighting to overturn the ban for five years, was able to get the two-year appropriation through the Senate by attaching it to the VA appropriations bill. Last year she pulled a stand-alone bill to lift the ban on funding for veteran fertility services when Republican legislators threatened to tack on unrelated amendments in reaction to the Planned Parenthood fetal tissue controversy that erupted just a few days before the scheduled committee vote.

As we wrote about Murray’s efforts in 2013, the U.S. Department of Defense provides three IVF cycles for active service members who suffer reproductive system injuries in the line of duty. Legislators have historically cited fear of runaway costs as one justification for prohibiting veterans from receiving similar support. However, fewer than 2,000 individuals suffered such combat-related injuries in Iran and Afghanistan between 2003 through 2008, according to the Seattle Times.

In its handbook for military families, Path-2-Parenthood (formerly the American Fertility Association) points out that while a small number of Military Treatment Facilities provide IVF and other fertility treatments, at a lower-than-normal cost, most active duty service members use non-military facilities and pay full price for the services out of their own pockets.

Murray has found the veterans who are impacted by reproductive injuries and their families to be her most effective witnesses in overcoming legislative barriers to VA funding for fertility services. As the Sacramento Bee reported, one combat veteran, Kevin Jaye, who lost one testicle and part of one leg when he stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan, spent more than two years in a military hospital, undergoing 30 surgeries. He and his wife were fortunate; her employee insurance covered the $30,000 cost of IVF, and they are now expecting their first child, a daughter. But Jaye knows others are not so lucky and believes he and they are being denied the help they were promised when he enlisted. “We went to war with the sole promise that if we were injured and came back, the country would put us back together again,” Jaye told the Bee. “There’s technology available that can allow my wife and I to have our own kids and have that same exact dream that everybody else strives for: to have their white picket fence, their two to three kids, dog, beautiful house, everything, and that’s just what we’re striving to achieve here.”

Thanks to Barbara Collura of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, for helping us to clarify the existence of two separate bills—the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2017 containing Murray’s amendment to provide fertility services to wounded veterans, and Rep. Jeff Miller’s bill, HR 2257, which would provide a $20,000 one-time disability payment to veterans with injuries preventing procreation.


Rich Vaughn
Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

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Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.