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New laws are providing options for members of the military and for veterans who want to start families. Image: Unsplash

It’s been a long road, but US military and veteran services are stepping up when it comes to helping service men and women start families. Fertility options that were once unavailable via healthcare for both active members of the military and for vets are now becoming increasingly common.

It’s not just separation from spouses that can make family planning difficult for members of the military. Injuries that affect fertility are, unfortunately, quite common.  For example, more than 1,300 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan returned home with injuries to their groin areas and genitalia that made it impossible for them to have children without medical assistance. And that assistance doesn’t come cheap.

Last January, the Pentagon took action. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the Pentagon would begin covering sperm and egg freezing for troops wanting to have families in the future. Part of the “Force of the Future” initiative, these services were combined with options including changes to maternity and paternity leave, as well as improved childcare services.

“We can help our men and women preserve their ability to start a family, even if they suffer certain combat issues,” said Carter. “That’s why we will cover the cost of freezing sperm or eggs through a pilot program for active-duty service members.”

Whether injured and unable to conceive or simply wanting to plan long term for that bundle of joy, this arm of the Force of the Future program provided a good start on making the military a more “family-friendly” workplace.

What about veterans, though? The catch in the Force of the Future program is that its benefits are only available to currently active members of the military.

In April, services for veterans were put on the table as well. House Bill HR 4892, introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-FL, would pay veterans injured in service-related accidents or combat $20,000 to help them start a family. These funds would be available in addition to any other disability compensation the veterans receive.

“If a veteran does decide to use this benefit to start a family of their own, the real winners would be the children. Who better to raise America’s next generation than the bravest of our current generation?” Miller commented. “But no matter how each affected veteran might utilize this benefit, one thing is clear: they earned it,” he added.

A slew of beneficial legislation has followed, including HR 5235, which includes funding for the Department of Veterans Services to provide fertility services or adoption for veterans suffering from service-connected infertility.

HR 5235 was recently updated with an interim rule allowing veterans to receive IVF services from both the VA and the Defense Department (previously, military members were out of luck as soon as they left active service, as fertility services were only available through the Defense Department).

All in all, then, military services are doing great things to help both active and veteran members get the help they need to start the families they want. Everyone deserves to have a family to love. And thanks to these new regulations, those who serve their country are getting a chance to do just that.