Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) is off-setting the high costs of fertility treatments for the Coast Guard workforce by offering an Assisted Reproductive Services (ARS) loan. It is interest-free and provides up to $6,000 to support fertility care not covered by TRICARE.
CGMA recognizes that military service impacts family planning. In the 2018 survey by Service Women's Action Network, 37% of active duty women struggle with trying to conceive while serving, a rate more than three times higher than the national average of 12%. While this statistic shows the impact to active duty women, CGMA recognizes that reproductive service needs are not unique to women. The loan is available to all qualifying members of the workforce for CGMA assistance: Coast Guard active duty, reserve, civilian employees, retirees, auxiliarist, as well as, public health service and US Navy Chaplains attached to the Coast Guard.
A path familiar to many female officers, Morgan Holden, a retired Coast Guard commander, delayed having children for many years, putting an afloat career first. After six years of consecutive afloat tours, she married Lt. Cmdr. David Holden. They had their first child and then after time, had a second where she experienced complications during that pregnancy. However, when their second child turned two they were ready to expand their family with a third. Previous birth complications, Holden’s maternal age of 38, and new genetic information they received, eventually led them towards IVF.
Holden states, “IVF was more than expected. It took more patience, more money and was more invasive than I ever thought was possible. I went through two egg retrievals, multiple surgeries, six embryo transfers, a cross country PCS, changing doctors, and flying cryo-preserved embryos cross country for us to finally have our little girl; three years and $70,000 later."
Perhaps serendipitously Holden served on the CGMA board when the funding was unanimously approved. From Holden’s perspective the loan is particularly helpful for young families, “It's pretty much a no-brainer,” she said. It's easier to get a CGMA loan than it is to get a loan through an IVF center, it’s zero interest, and it's really fast,” she added. “It can be in your bank account in two days. When a family is at the point of needing a fertility treatment plan the last thing they want to worry about is how to get enough money for the initial round of testing; testing that can pinpoint where the concerns are stemming from and, unfortunately, just isn’t covered by TRICARE.”
The CGMA loan is available regardless of marital status, gender, age, or sexual orientation, a point Holden seems passionate about making clear. “More and more active duty members, both women and men, need fertility assistance to expand their families,” she said. “While there are a few MTF’s that have fertility support for military families, they still have substantial out-of-pocket costs, long wait times, and have restrictions on who qualifies for support.”
Holden's husband, Lt. Cmdr. David Holden currently serves in D-17 DXR, weighed-in on the process, its impact on families, and his support role. “The process is certainly less intrusive on my body but IVF involved both of us,” he said. “Learning how to give shots, multiple surgeries, taking leave, trips to the doctors, and being there for recovery adds stress to an already demanding dual-military family. IVF was another huge event that was added onto our world that we both are happy to have gone through, despite all the challenges that it created.”
The Holdens’ IVF process was successful for their last child. They have a two-year-old, seven-year-old, and an 11-year-old.
CGMA is the first Military Aid Society to offer such a financial fertility assistance program. Coast Guard personnel may apply for assistance and donations may be made online at: www.cgmahq.org. General assistance for emergencies, day-to-day expenses, and education support is available to the entire Coast Guard community: active duty, reserve member, civilian employee, retiree or auxiliarist; you can call toll free: (800) 881-2462 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.