Toni Hackney, an army veteran from Atlanta, has always wanted to have a biological child but knew she would need to undergo fertility treatments to get there
She is single and has endometriosis, and will therefore need in-vitro fertilization treatments. The VA denied the 47-year old coverage (after a one year wait while they made the decision). Their reasoning? She is a single woman.
Hackney simply doesn’t think that that answer is good enough. She is a veteran just like any married person and feels that she should be offered the same medical coverage regardless of her marital status.
She says, “The whole time I’m fighting with them about, OK, this isn’t fair, you know? Y’all say everything is on an equal basis and everything, but this doesn’t feel like an equal basis. It’s like they make it mandatory for you to get married to get treatment.”
The VA has strict guidelines about who they will offer their reproductive health care benefits. You must have suffered a service-connected injury, be able to supply your own eggs or sperm and be married.
These restrictions purposely exclude single people, anyone who needs to use a surrogate or donor genetic material, same-sex couples, and transgender people. Even if you cannot produce your own eggs or sperm as a result of an injury in the line of duty, you are not covered. To Toni Hackney, this is ludicrous. “I want to experience pregnancy and giving birth. For me, the experience is just more than a want. I need it.” She is currently raising money on GoFundMe but has only raised $1400 of her $45,000 goal thus far.
The VA added fertility treatment coverage in 2016
The VA only added fertility treatments relatively recently in 2016. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash fought hard for these benefits, and now many others are struggling to increase their scope. According to Barb Collura, the president and CEO of the Resolve infertility advocacy group, this isn’t good enough. “It’s helping some, and trust me; we’re very happy and grateful for that. But it’s showing, in very glaring form, who is being left out, and that’s not acceptable to us.”
Because of the restrictive rules, most people who need these fertility benefits are not able to access them. In fact, only 567 veterans were approved for the treatment coverage between 2016 and 2019, the vast majority of were men with external injuries whose wives are undergoing IVF or IUI.
Since any changes to this program must make its way through Congress, advocates worry that it is a losing battle
The issue, while having nothing to do with abortion, raises the ire of extreme pro-life conservative Christians. Some Republican lawmakers are against IVF treatments unless they vow never to destroy any embryos. As a result, the battle to add more fertility coverage stalls, even though the VA pays for unlimited embryo storage to soothe this divisive rift.
In the meantime, Toni Hackney is researching adoption, but she is angry that Congress is mandating her healthcare. “Since Congress’ laws regulate the VA, they really need to not play a political game with people’s lives and futures. This is my life.”
Have you been in the same situation? How have you dealt with this? We would love to know your story at firstname.lastname@example.org