The Link Between Combat and Infertility
One of the nation’s largest fertility clinics is partnering with the Veterans Administration to conduct a study about combat and infertility among veterans.
Researchers plan to test sperm collected from 1,000 veterans of the Global War on Terror to look for commonalities in fertility issues among the population. They believe burn pit exposure during service, traumatic brain injury side effects, and ongoing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) contribute to high infertility rates among combat veterans. Researchers hope to use the findings to expand the fertility services offered by VA in the coming years. The study is beginning in Boston, MA, but veterans from across the United States can apply and will be notified when their state begins registration.
“As a VA physician, I have witnessed firsthand veterans struggling with family building,” remarked VA health care innovation chief Dr. Ryan Vega. “This effort is important to further understanding and tackling a challenge so many of our nation’s veterans face,” he added. The report is expected to be released in 2024.
Male Infertility VA Benefits
Did you know that 67 percent of military veterans experiences issues with family planning? Usually, a medical condition unrelated to military service causes male infertility. Swollen veins that affect the functions of the testicles are the most common example. This condition is treatable and reversible. Other possible causes include infection, cancer, and celiac disease (i.e., gluten sensitivity).
Environmental conditions, including service-related disabilities, may cause infertility as well. A service-related disability is a condition which had its origin during the veteran’s time on active duty. Usually, any condition that can be traced back to their time in service can be deemed “service-connected.”
A previous study revealed that male veterans with PSTD often had low sperm counts and poor sperm quality. These issues were even worse among older and non-white male veterans.
If service-connected PTSD is the cause, infertility can be considered a “secondary” service-connected condition. A VA disability attorney can help obtain benefits for such secondary conditions. The burden of proof for obtaining benefits is relatively low — the veteran must prove it is “at least as likely as not” that their condition is related to service. There is a long-standing presumption that veterans are entitled to benefits. Lawyers representing the VA must overcome that presumption to deny benefits. This is especially true at the first appeal stage, where the initial claim is denied and the veteran appeals to the Board of Veterans Appeals.
Female Infertility VA Benefits
Similar VA benefits are available to infertile female veterans. Specific ART/IVF services include genetic counseling, ultrasound procedures, tubal ligation reversal, and medication. The same family requirements apply if the veteran is a female.
Establishing a service-related connection is often the tricky part. The onset of certain medical conditions during or after military service, like tubal infertility, cervical cancer, or endometriosis (scar tissue in the fallopian tubes) could affect the outcome of a claim for disability benefits related to infertility. An attorney will likely seek the opinion of an independent (i.e., non-VA) medical professional to determine the cause of the infertility, if possible.
Female veterans have an unusually high infertility rate, but researchers are not sure why. A VA disability lawyer often uses a before-and-after approach in these cases. If a female veteran, or a male veteran for that matter, was fertile before s/he went into combat and infertile after s/he came home, there is a strong argument that infertility originated in service for purposes of obtaining service-connection benefits.
These benefits usually include monthly cash payments and free medical treatment at any VA medical facility. Specific infertility benefits include “in vitro fertilization” (IVF) and “assisted reproductive technology” (ART) services. Spouses are also eligible for these benefits if:
- The couple is legally married
- The veteran has a direct or indirect service-connected disability
- The veteran or spouse has at least one functioning ovary as well as an intact uterus
- The veteran or spouse can produce sperm or has preserved sperm
Though not in place yet, the VA has stated it wants to expand fertility services for veterans, including getting rid of the co-pay for contraception and expanding access to single veterans or veterans in a same-sex relationship. It is also asking congress to be allowed to cover the cost of donor sperm, donor eggs, or surrogacy for veterans who need it. IVF and ART do not currently cover these advanced treatments.
Rely on Experienced Attorneys
An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. For a free consultation with an experienced veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box on our website. We are here to represent veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.