Austin Carrig wanted more children, but it was not easy to raise her family, especially since her husband was an active soldier in the army. The family often moves from one base to another and access to health care is ongoing.

Carrig and her husband wanted to avoid transmitting a life-threatening genetic disease that gave birth to their second son, so they paid for intrauterine insemination procedures – which are not covered by TRICARE, the health ministry’s health system – and used a sperm donor. The experiments did not work and the couple could not afford in vitro fertilization procedures.

Carrig noted that there are some military and naval programs that offer infertility care – but they are only available to those who are lucky enough to be assigned to certain bases.

“I’m not saying they give us unlimited attempts to treat infertility,” Carrig told The 19th. “But especially with servicemen who have dedicated their lives to you even now, because they may have waited too long to have a child because of their service in the army – you will not cover their infertility treatment?” They gave you the best of themselves. Why can’t we help them make their dream come true? ”

Karig’s family eventually adopted a child, a process that took years and cost them an amount equal to one year of her husband’s salary. Their struggle to cope with their adopted daughter’s health challenges and even join her coverage of TRICARE in time for an operation, eventually leading Carrig to become a defender of military families with special needs.

Carrig’s story, while complex, illustrates many of the challenges military members face in trying to raise their families. There are over 400,000 parents in the army alone. The National Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Chicago estimates that more than 2 million military personnel and their spouses can benefit from more comprehensive infertility coverage. Thousands of parents in the force began a massive effort to initiate change, which eventually led to a new U.S. Army directive on parenting, pregnancy and postpartum, announced on April 21.

TRICARE, which covers people in all military services, is now available some treatments to treat infertility, but only those that are considered “medically necessary and combined with natural conception”. Limited options include treatment of physical injuries to the reproductive system and diagnostic services such as semen analysis and hormone assessment. TRICARE does not cover artificial insemination, any costs associated with donors or sperm banks or “non-quital reproductive procedures”, unless the serviceman is married and injured during active service, resulting in loss of “natural reproductive capacity”. Many of these treatments are also usually not covered through private insurance or Medicaid.

The new army directive does not change what is covered, but increases the leave of soldiers after birth and excuses pregnant soldiers from certain physical tests and requirements. The directive contains a dozen policy changes related to fertility treatment, pregnancy loss and family care plans – half of which are new and the other half are consolidated components that have been scattered across different regulations. Under the directive, soldiers undergoing infertility treatment will be exempted from deployment and on-site training for up to one year and will be granted a 90-day exemption from the program, which dictates height and weight standards. Families undergoing infertility treatment will be protected for one year from relocation or relocation. And soldiers who are referred to a fertility specialist may be eligible to be transferred to another facility where treatment is available.

“We are recruiting soldiers but keeping families,” said General James McConville, the army’s chief of staff, in a statement announcing the new directive. “Winning the war for talent means making sure that our best and smartest people don’t have to choose between service and family.”

More than 10 percent of active service respondents say the challenges of building a family are a major reason they would leave the military, according to an annual report. study of the lifestyle of the military family conducted by Blue Star Families, a non-profit organization founded in 2009 by military spouses. The new military directive is based on congressional requirements and is designed to increase detention and “normalize parenthood,” according to the military branch.

Austin Carrig signs “Look, she says we’re your mother and father” while in court on the day of her child’s adoption. (Courtesy of Austin Carrig)

Sgt. Nicole Pierce is one of the authors of the directive, a single mother of two daughters and the founder and administrator of several Facebook groups for mothers in the military – including “The Army Mom Life”, which has more than 8,500 members and provides feedback to a military branch. Army fathers are not included in the private group due to intimate details shared between members. Pierce, who has been in the service for nearly a decade, said these new policies would have a significant impact on her career. She had previously been told she could not get more than two days to process, grieve and recover from medical procedure after miscarriage. When she became pregnant, she repeatedly lost her position in vocational training, development and education, which delayed her promotion for years.

The new policy “is a huge thing to improve the quality of life,” Pierce told a news conference on April 21, announcing the directive. “In the Facebook group, we receive posts every day – I would say 50 to 75 posts from mothers from the army. They constantly share with us how [policies] as they are at the moment, they are influencing their careers, refraining from promotion or having difficulty being a breastfeeding or nursing mother. ”

Weeks ago, the Blue Star Families survey, the largest and most comprehensive of its kind, found that more than two-thirds of the military community report challenges to building a family with more than 10 percent of respondents paying more than $ 35,000 out of pocket. Then in April, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Military Coalition for Family Building (MFBC) develop a financial model this will improve TRICARE coverage and provide comprehensive infertility coverage for military families in active service “at a price far lower than previously thought”.

Katie Bell Hendrickson, co-founder of MFBC, said that comprehensive care and coverage when it comes to reproductive health is a “military readiness issue.”

“Failure to cover these basic health needs to build the family of our active military personnel has a direct impact on the retention, readiness and financial solvency of many members,” Hendrickson said in a statement. “Our country cannot afford to lose the talent and diversity of men and women affected by this difference in care.

Although it is too early to understand how the new military policies will affect military families, especially those experiencing infertility problems, some the military is hopeful.

Major Sam Winkler, another mother in the military who helped write the directive, said it was exciting to see the efforts of ordinary people, which began in intimate conversations between soldier and soldier, pave the way for a formal policy change.

“What’s so exciting about this military directive is that we’ve created real feedback,” Winkler told a news conference in April. “We have voices that started at the level of soldiers that were heard all the way by our top army leaders and they listened. And they took responsibility and made changes … because we came to the table with real decisions. “

Carrig spent a lot of time thinking about the military and her family. In many ways, she said families struggling with infertility or in the midst of infertility treatment should be included in the Family Members Exceptional Program (EFMP), a enrollment program to help soldiers with family members. with physical, emotional, developmental or intellectual disabilities requiring specialized services – or similar designation. The goal is to support these families at every stage of life, instead of excluding them from service.

“I see families that have been relocated during treatment or adoption, and they have to choose whether to separate their family so that they can adopt or return this child to foster care,” Carrig said. “There has to be a mechanism for them to stay.”

Her family also experienced some of these challenges first hand when she chose to adopt.

For five years and three relocations, she and her husband waited for their birth parents to choose them. But in the end, Carrig said, waiting and constant frustration became too difficult. Just months before registering with the adoption agency, Carrig received a call: There was a newborn girl with Down Syndrome who needed a home. A few days later, Carrig was on a flight alone to pick up her daughter from Hawaii.

TRICARE does not cover any adoption costs, but the military is offering $ 2,000 cost recovery of an adopted child. Overall, Carrig said the adoption cost about $ 45,000 out of pocket. They managed to pay lawyers and the adoption agency with multiple payments, but she said they are still digging into their savings, selling personal belongings and even organizing fundraising for pancakes to manage a quick adoption.

When they returned home to Boston, it was immediately clear that something was wrong. A pediatrician referred the baby to a cardiologist, who said he needed immediate open heart surgery. The hospital demanded a $ 100,000 deposit, but Carrig said she was still struggling to get her daughter involved in her husband’s TRICARE plan.

“[The Defense Department] she told us it would be six to eight weeks, and I said to myself, “She doesn’t have six to eight weeks to live,” and there was no process to speed it up, Carrig said. “She had the feeling: I’ve been waiting five years for this child and I’m going to lose her because I can’t figure out how to get her into TRICARE?”

Unexpectedly, Carrig said her daughter had qualified for Medicaid because the adoption papers had not yet been processed and the agency had paid for the operation.

A few days after her 8-week-old daughter’s heart surgery, which was not covered by TRICARE, Carrig said her baby had stopped breathing and was placed on a ventilator. It was during this hospital stay that Karig’s husband – who recently asked not to be relocated to a base across the country due to his daughter’s medical condition – received a call from the army. On a loudspeaker, Carig said, in a room full of listening doctors, an employee tasked with overseeing the family’s relocation suggested Carrig and her husband “return it,” given their newly adopted daughter, and get a new one. “After the transfer. The room fell silent, and Carrig’s husband quickly ended the conversation.

When challenge after challenge arose, Carrig said she would never forget how she felt in those moments when it seemed that the army and her health care system might not be able to cope with her daughter: “I took her from her parents and maybe they would be able to, or maybe another adoptive family could handle it. ”

Originally Posted by 19th

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