the veterans bill cleared the senate committee!

great news!  the women veterans and other health care improvement act, one of the bills we were speaking about for at resolve’s advocacy day, has cleared committee and will be going for a vote on the full senate floor!  this bill would help servicemembers made infertile during combat build their families.  currently, military families do not have coverage for IVF through tricare.

could you take a few minutes to contact your senators and ask for their support for the bill?  pretty please?  i’ve included the basic parts of the letters i sent this morning below, feel free to steal!

I was very excited to hear yesterday  that The Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvements Act (S 131) was cleared through the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and will be voted on by the full Senate.  The Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act is a tremendously important piece of legislation to help our wounded veterans build their families.
From 2003 to 2012, Department of Defense data shows that almost 2,000 servicemembers suffered urinary tract and reproductive trauma.  In addition, spinal cord injuries can often require highly specialized medical treatments like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to conceive.  These injuries have been increasing in recent years as both the use of improvised explosive devices and foot patrols have increased in combat zones.
Currently, the VA excludes coverage for IIVF for infertile military families through TriCare, even for those couples where the servicemember is rendered infertile because of injuries sustained during combat.  Couples who require IVF to build their families due to their combat injuries must go outside the TriCare system and pay tens of thousands of dollars out of their own pockets for a chance to have a child.
The Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act would remedy this injustice and provide the opportunity for servicemembers and their spouses to utilize assisted reproductive technologies to build their families.  In addition, it would provide families with limited financial assistance and others resources if they should chose to build their families through adoption after their combat injuries.
I hope that I can rely on your support to help our servicemembers and their families recover after the sacrifices they have made for our country.   Should you have any questions or need additional information, please contact me or feel free to contact Barbara Collura, President/CEO of RESOLVE, at bcollura@resolve.org.  You may also visit the RESOLVE website at www.resolve.org/infertilityissues.  Thank you again for your consideration of this bill.

hey new yorkers!

hey all you new york people: i have a mission for you! do me a quick favor, and contact your state senators and assemblypeople and ask them to support the Child-Parent Security Act!

the bill was introduced today by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Senator Brad Hoylman, and would help NY couples who need to use a gestational carrier to build their families. a gestational carrier is not biologically related to the child she carries; the child is conceived using the intended mother’s egg or a donor egg, and the intended father’s sperm or donor sperm (as opposed to a traditional surrogate, who uses her own egg to help the family conceive). surrogacy laws vary greatly from state to state. currently, in NY, surrogacy contracts are unenforceable and ban any compensation for the gestational carrier. in addition, after the child is born, the gestational carrier (and her husband, if she has one) must relinquish their parental rights to the child (that they are not related to), the intended parents must go to court to be declared the parents, and a new birth certificate must be issued.

under the Child-Parent Security Act, parents can provide compensation to their carrier, enter into a binding contract (that protects all parties involved), and be declared the legal parents of the child from birth, rather than jumping through a ton of legal hopes.

please, please, please take a few seconds to fill in your info and let Resolve send a quick email on your behalf? our representatives won’t know that this is an important issue unless we tell them!

oh, and while you’re at it, let your representatives in DC know that you care about the Family Act and the Women Veterans and Other Health Improvements Act! you know you want to!

advocacy day 2013

i feel like i may be the last blogger left to talk about advocacy day, i’ve been reading so many wonderful posts about it (i’ll add a list of the ones i’ve seen at the end).  other than my usual excuse of just being so busy, it’s been really hard to articulate how i feel about the experience.  i just keep coming back to the same three words: it was amazing.

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my day started hours before dawn, heading to the train station and catching the 4 am train to DC.  on the way, i had a chance to check out twitter (which i still don’t think i’ve quite gotten the hang of) and found links to a bunch of bloggers who were also going to be there.  i spent the next few hours engrossed in these women’s stories, reaffirming why this day was so important.

my train finally rolled into union station, and despite having two sets of directions and the GPS on my phone, i still managed to get myself turned around far too many times.  finally, i made it to the reception, and all my stress and fear melted away.  i can’t describe how wonderful it felt to be in a room of 115+ people who just get it.  who you can talk to without explaining terms or procedures, or qualifying the statements that i made.  if nothing else, that feeling of acceptance and understanding made the entire day worthwhile.

it was wonderful to meet my fellow NJ advocates.  there were about a dozen of us there, all at various stages in building our families.  it was wonderful to see one woman there from pennsylvania to support her daughter who was struggling with infertility.  three of our advocates had attended advocacy day before, but the rest of us were there for the first time.

the amazing NJ delegation!
the amazing NJ delegation!

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we were in DC to advocate for two important pieces of legislation: the family act and the women veterans and other health improvements act.

the family act (s. 881 & hr.1851) is a tax credit bill aimed at helping middle class families afford IVF.  the bill is modelled after the adoption tax credit, which was thankfully made permanent in the last congress.  the family act is a 50/50 cost sharing credit, which would cover up to half the expenses for qualifying couples up to the lifetime max of around $26,000 (so $13,000).  this would be from the first penny spent, and carry over for five years.  to qualify for the credit, a couple needs a diagnosis of infertility that requires IVF, which is about 5% of infertile couples.  this includes military families, who are currently excluded from IVF coverage under TRICARE.

in addition to helping with the cost of IVF, the family act would also help with the costs for cancer patients to preserve their fertility before undergoing treatment that will most likely impact their fertility.

the second bill we were advocating for in the women veterans and other health care improvement act (s.131 & hr.958).  as i mentioned before, military families are not provided IVF coverage under TRICARE, the military benefits program.  not even if they are infertile because of injuries sustained during combat.

let me repeat that in case you missed it: if you are fighting to protect our country and your injuries leave you infertile and you need IVF, tough luck.  you can just pay for that out of pocket.

how can anyone think that this doesn’t need to be fixed?

in the past decade or so, about 2,000 service men and women have sustained injuries to their reproductive systems or spinal cord injuries that would require the use of IVF to build their families.  as senator murray said, “we need new treatments for new traumas” caused by improvised explosive devices.  you can read a great article about the bill here.

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for our appointments with the senators’ offices, all of the NJ advocates met together, which was a great way to ease our way into the day.  we had hashed out a plan before hand, deciding who was comfortable talking about which aspects we wanted to address.  i volunteered to start us off after our introductions, explaining some of the basic concepts and statistics about infertility.  good thing i wrote those posts for niaw, i felt like i really knew my facts.  after i talked about some basic facts, including insurance coverage, another advocate spoke about the family act, and then a third about the women veteran’s and other health improvement act.

talking to a staffer from Sen. Lautenberg's office
talking to a staffer from Sen. Lautenberg’s office

our first appointment was with a legislative assistant from Senator Lautenberg’s office.  she was a wonderful first meeting, asking great questions and sounding very positive about the bills.  she even said before we left that she didn’t see any reason that the senator wouldn’t be be on board with the legislation!  next up, we met with a legislative correspondent with Senator Menendez.  it was another great meeting, and was interesting to discuss the bills with someone who i don’t think was very familiar with infertility before we got there.  again, he was positive and asked good questions (and lots of them, we met with him for a while!), but i didn’t leave the meeting feeling quite as confident that we could count on the senator’s support quite yet.  good thing we’ve already been back in touch to push for his help 🙂

i don't think he was expecting this many of us
i don’t think he was expecting this many of us

then it was time to meet with our representatives from the House.  resolve makes a point to ensure that you never attend a meeting alone, but i got a phone call that Representative Runyan’s office needed to move my appointment up.  before i knew what i was saying, i was telling the staff member from resolve that i would be ok and she didn’t need to find someone else to meet me at the new time.  me and my big mouth! in the end though, i was so proud of myself for going alone.  especially since i ended up meeting with Representative Runyan (himself!) and his chief of-staff.  while they were very polite and asked about the bills, i don’t think that we can expect him to co-sponsor them anytime soon.  i am hoping that, given Representative Runyan’s strong support of our military and veterans, we can get him to understand just how vital these bills can be to our service members.

to be honest, i was a bit disappointed leaving this meeting.  i knew not everyone would sign right on to support our legislation, but it was still…disappointing is really the best way to describe it.  but little did i know, my day wasn’t done yet!

the train!  i felt so special!
the train! i felt so special!

i met up with some of the other NJ ladies after my meeting, and they were off to talk to Representative Andrews.  and they were kind enough to invite me along!  we made it up to his office, but he wasn’t back from the floor yet.  after a short wait, his legislative assistant asked us if we would mind going to the House to meet him.  would we mind?!?! no way!  we made our way back down to the basement and hopped on the underground train and were whisked over to the Capitol building.  we were escorted to a…lounge area?…between the house floor and Representative Pelosi’s office.  Representative Andrews soon joined us, and instantly made us all feel at ease.  we knew we could expect a positive meeting since Representative Andrews had co-sponsored the previous incarnation of the family act during the 112th congress.  and we were not disappointed!  not only did Representative Andrews tell us that resolve would always have his support in Congress, he also gave us great advice on who we really needed to get support from now that the bills were in committee.  and he offered to help any of us out with our personal family building efforts if we needed someone to run interference with insurance companies.  so kind!

with Rep. Andrews
with Rep. Andrews

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after meeting with Representative Andrews, i had to dash out to catch my train home.  at that point, i was exhausted – both physically and emotionally.  but it’s getting late now, and i have lesson plans to write, so that may have to wait for a separate post.  sorry!

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in the meantime, please contact your senators and representatives to ask for their support (link includes letters you can use!)  oh, and take a look at what other advocates are saying about their experience at advocacy day:

for those who can’t celebrate mother’s day this weekend

i’m still working on my post about wednesday’s advocacy day (in short – it was amazing and i can’t wait for next year!), but in the meantime, i wanted to ask you all to do a little something for me.  something in honor of mother’s day, and all the women out there who will be unable to celebrate this year.  could you take a few minutes to contact your representatives and ask for their support on the two bills that would make a world of difference to couples like Ralph and i?

we are looking for support for the family act, a tax credit that would help couples with the costs of IVF, as well as cancer patients needing to preserve their fertility.  we also hope to get passed the women veterans and other health care improvement act, that would cover IVF for soldiers that are made infertile by injuries sustained in war.

i have written up a couple of letters that you can easily copy and paste into your email and send out. (i wrote ones for new jersey, pennsylvania, and new york since that’s where i know lots of people.  give me other states and i will make one specific for you).  you can check here to find your representative (or let me know your zip and i will gladly find it for you).  it will only take a few minutes of your time, and will make a tremendous difference to infertile couples.

niaw: stuff that rocks my socks

have you heard, it’s national infertility awareness week! and in honor of it, i have been doing a bunch of posts this week for all of my fertile friends and family to help inform them about infertility and the issues in our community.

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so, i think you’ve heard me ramble on enough this week, how about listening reading to some of the other amazing people in the ALI (adoption, loss, & infertility) community. it’s time for another list o’ awesomeness:

  • first off, thank you to our family and friends for their support. it may seem like a small thing to you, but every message, facbook like, and blog post you shared meant so, so much to me. thank you!Read More »

niaw: join the movement

have you heard, it’s national infertility awareness week!  and in honor of it, i have been doing a bunch of posts this week for all of my fertile friends and family to help inform them about infertility and the issues in our community.

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so we’ve covered some basic information on infertility and in vitro fertilization.  we’ve debunked that popular misconception.  we’ve talked about access to treatment and the politics of infertility.  you’re practically an expert!

so what?  who cares?  you’re done having kids/not interested in offspring/have a fully functioning reproductive system.  what’s this all have to do with you?Read More »

niaw: access to treatment

have you heard, it’s national infertility awareness week! and in honor of it, i have been doing a bunch of posts this week for all of my fertile friends and family to help inform them about infertility and the issues in our community.

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personhood legislation and similar laws aren’t the only things that can make it difficult for infertile couples to build their families.  by and large, the biggest hurdle for couples is financial.  according to resolve, the average costs of various ART procedures:

  • IUI: ranged from $275 to $2,457—a huge differential. Some prices quoted include medications, blood work and sonograms; others do not
  • fresh IVF cycle: $8,158 plus an average of $3,000 – $5,000 for medications
  • additional cost of ICSI procedure:$1,544
  • additional cost of PGD procedure: $3,550

that’s a little bit more than the fancy dinner and bottle of wine some people can make a baby with.Read More »