Advocacy Day 2016

SGF patients Kevin and Laura Jaye with Representative Tammy Duckworth at Advocacy Day 2016

On May 11th, more than 20 Shady Grove Fertility physicians, staff, and patients joined more than 200 infertility advocates at RESOLVE’s Advocacy Day 2016 to lobby on Capitol Hill. The collective mission was to raise awareness among members of Congress of the scope of infertility across the country and the physical, emotional, and financial impact of the disease. The group specifically asked for more support on several pieces of pending legislation, emphasizing that, with Congressional support, more families will have access to the care they need.

SGF has supported Advocacy Day for several years, but this year was a particularly special year. We had the opportunity to hear from Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, U.S. House of Representatives, 8th District, Illinois, a woman who served in the military, and who later, injured during service, struggled to conceive. This was especially relevant as one of this year’s main initiatives was to support a new bill designed to provide fun
ding to veterans (whose service wounds impaired their reproductive ability) in need of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment.

In addition, SGF was able to celebrate Lauren and Kevin Jaye, SGF patients who were honored with the RESOLVE Infertility Hero Award. The Jayes have fought and overcome infertility caused by an injury Kevin received while serving in the military. They have been very public about their experiences, including sharing story with CBS News.

Gaining Support for Veterans, Adoption, and the National Action Plan on Infertility

All of the nearly 220 advocates asked Congress to support legislation to allow veterans and other military personnel to obtain infertility and family building resources. In addition, we asked for support of bills that will improve the Adoption Tax Credit so that more people can afford to build their family through adoption and (in collaboration with Resolve) advance the goals of the National Action Plan on Infertility.

As a Visionary Partner of RESOLVE: the National Infertility Association and sponsor of Advocacy Day 2016, SGF asked members of Congress to support four important issues this year that affect the infertility community, including:

  • Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act that allows veterans to obtain IVF, adoption assistance, and other family-building benefits
  • The Veterans Amendment to the Senate Appropriations Mil-Con Bill, which will provide funding for the VA to offer IVF to veterans for 2 years
  • The Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act, which restores refundability so that families who need the credit the most will receive it
  • Goals of the National Action Plan on Infertility

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth Discusses Veteran Access to Infertility Treatment at Advocacy Day 2016

Representative Duckworth speaking at Advocacy Day 2016

RESOLVE’s Advocacy Day 2016 began at the National Press Club, where Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth spoke about her 23 years in the military and how she battled for her positions throughout her military career, as well as how she later had to battle for the ability to have a child. On her path to parenthood, she quickly learned how limited availability of infertility treatment is for veterans.

Duckworth explained that, “in that highly competitive world, you don’t want to take any time off and as a young woman I had my mind set on battalion command someday,” which, as Duckworth explained, was a long road that coincided with her prime years, late 20s to mid-30s, to start a family.

In 2004, Duckworth was deployed to Iraq as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot for the Illinois Army National Guard. She was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom until her helicopter was hit. Duckworth lost her legs and partial use of her right arm.

After 18 months of recovery, at the age of 38, she could finally start a family with her husband. She and her husband tried on their own for a year; however, since the Veteran Affairs hospital didn’t offer fertility treatment, she was referred to a reproductive specialist. The specialist told her to give up trying to conceive due to her age, she was just 41.

“In this most personal and private of moments, where I felt the most vulnerable, and least knowledgeable…I believed her. And she showed me the charts and the research…And so I went home and I gave up.”

Duckworth said she wouldn’t have changed a thing about her service in the military, but her number one regret was that she would never have the chance to carry her own child. A year later Duckworth attended a Women in Leadership event, and was connected with a specialist who told her it was possible, that she did have options. This specialist changed her life and helped her become pregnant with her daughter who she gave birth to in 2014.

Her speech conveyed how we must advocate to lift fertility treatment restrictions at Veteran Affairs Hospitals and increase insurance coverage for veterans who have sustained devastating reproductive injuries. And if infertility treatment isn’t an option, that there needs to be wider coverage for adoption, health access, and childcare access.

Shady Grove Fertility Patients, Kevin and Lauren Jaye Receive Hero Award at Advocacy Day 2016

SGF patients, Kevin Jaye and his wife, Lauren, who are expecting their first child in a couple of months, were honored at Advocacy Day 2016 for their commitment to change a law restricting the Department of Veteran Affairs from covering their treatment cost. They received the Hero Award, which recognizes the special efforts of people in the infertility community. During Advocacy Day, the Jayes, along with both of their parents, met with countless representatives and senators, advocating for change and sharing their personal story. Watch the Jayes on CBS News.

To be involved with Advocacy Day 2016, it isn’t too late to send letters to your Representatives and Senators to advocate for change. Click to find letter templates.
For more information about Shady Grove Fertility’s Military Discount Program or to schedule an appointment, please contact our New Patient Center at 877-971-7755.