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a needle going into a cell

A year before Ashley Sheffield left the military, she and her partner decided to try to have a child. The two women had always hoped to build a family. They were passionate about serving others, and they wanted to share that with a child.

Sheffield and her wife tried eight rounds of artificial insemination, but none worked. By the time Sheffield medically retired from the Air Force in 2021, she was 37, nearing what she suspected was the end of her fertility window. She and her wife decided to try in vitro fertilization.

The procedure can be costly, but the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) covers IVF for veterans who have a “service-connected disability” that impacts their fertility, and Sheffield assumed she’d qualify. After nearly 20 years in the Air Force, VA had awarded her 100 percent disability, plus an additional monthly compensation for “loss of a creative or reproductive organ.”

But when Sheffield asked her physician about the treatment, the department declined to pay for it.

According to court documents filed in Boston this week, the local women veterans...