RATHDRUM, Idaho – The U.S. Senate passed a spending bill Thursday with a provision aimed at helping disabled vets trying to have children.
The bill allows the VA to pay for fertility treatments for vets who cannot have kids naturally due to service related injuries.
Former Senior Airman, Sean Halstead is celebrating the passage of this bill. Halstead and his wife had their three kids through in-vitro fertilization, so he knows firsthand some of the struggles these wounded vets are going through.
He is an athlete on the U.S. Adaptive Ski Team and makes his home in Rathdrum. His biggest priority though is his three children. The fact that they are here today was something in question 18 years ago.
"I didn't grab onto the rope. And I don't remember why. But I fell 40 feet and landed on my back shattered my vertebrae," said Halstead.
Halstead's was in a training accident in 1998 that paralyzed him from the waist down. He began undergoing treatments and rehab through the VA. Halstead's accident also took away his ability to have children naturally. So, he and his wife began looking at alternative methods, like IVF. Their hope was that the VA would cover the cost of that for a wounded hero. The Halsteads were wrong.
"But with kids and fertility, the question became much more vague and kind of out there,” he said.
Frustrated, Halstead and his wife opted to go the private route, paying for the procedure themselves. And it wasn't cheap. It cost around $20,000 per round.
Fortunately for wounded vets like Halstead, change is on the way. The US Senate passed a bill that includes language to allow the VA to cover the costs of assisted reproductive technology. The provision was proposed by Washington Senator Patty Murray and was included in a larger spending bill. Now, procedures like IVF can be covered by the VA. According to her staff, Murray had been fighting since 2012 to reverse the agency's policy.
It is a much needed change for vets in the same place as Halstead once was. While his family has already been established, he points out that many wounded vets these days are much younger and are looking to start families themselves.
"They're beginning life. So anything that helps them smooth over those barriers that were created by something that happened during their military career, it's awesome," Halsted said.