A female Veteran is raising money to pay for fertility treatments after the Department of Veterans Affairs denied her coverage because she’s unmarried.
Toni Hackney, 46, told The Post that she developed endometriosis while on active duty with the U.S. Army and it made her infertile. Back in 2016, a physician’s assistant told her that IVF treatments could help her achieve her dream of conceiving a child, but that she would have to bear the costs, approximately $12,000 per round, on her own.
“I’m a Veteran, I have to be married … But yet a male Veteran’s wife can get IVF, but I can’t as a Veteran. This doesn’t make sense to me,” Hackney told CBS This Morning. “It’s taking away my life dream of being a mother.”
The Atlanta native said the rule, “was basically discriminating against me because I’m single.”
Hackney, who served in the Army for 16 years and rose to the rank of a staff sergeant, started a GoFundMe Page with a goal of $45,000 to cover three rounds of IVF. If Hackney is able to get pregnant on the first or second try, she said she’d donate the rest of the funds raised to another single female Veteran who shares her dream of motherhood. As of Monday morning, she raised just under $500.
The fertility rule isn’t the only discrimination Hackney said she faced in the military. After she was diagnosed with endometriosis and an ovarian cyst in 2002, she had the option of having surgery to remove the endometrial tissue or to take medication. She chose the latter for fear her career might be at stake.
“Had I had the surgery, as a female in a leadership position, I knew that I was not gonna have a chance for promotion,” she said.
Since the Department of Veterans Affairs first started covering IVF treatment in 2016, nearly 567 families have gained coverage. In addition to being married, those eligible for the treatment must have a military service-connected condition or illness that causes infertility, have a male spouse who can produce sperm or a female spouse who can produce eggs. A House bill introduced in February would expand the IVF coverage by giving Veterans access to eggs and sperm donation. The Department of Defense would also give service members the option of freezing eggs and sperm before their deployment to a combat zone, Connecting Vets radio reported.
“It’s past time Congress took this outdated ban off the books and give Veterans peace of mind that these decisions are theirs and theirs alone,” Sen. Patty Murray, who introduced the bill, said in a press release. “We promise to take care of Veterans long after the war is over and allowing them to fulfill their dream of having a family is a big part of that promise.”
Hackney said she hopes the bill will be introduced in time for her to have a family.
“I need to feel that love that only your child can give to you. I need to have a decent chance at that,” she told CBS.
Susan Carter, Director Of Media Relations at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, says the VA doesn’t decide who does or doesn’t get IVF treatment coverage.
“Per federal law, VA cannot offer IVF services to unmarried Veterans. For questions and interview requests about federal laws governing eligibility for VA IVF services, we refer you to the relevant congressional committees of jurisdiction,” Carter said in an email,
“VA does offer a variety of other infertility treatments to Veterans regardless of marital status.”