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Program helps veterans combat infertility

When injured veterans come home, John Payne knows they can face trials and uncertainty. But he is part of an effort to provide hope for one very important part of their future.

Payne is a physician with Piedmont Reproductive Endocrinology Group. The practice offers deeply discounted care to veterans whose service-related injuries have impaired their fertility. The program, called Service to Veterans, was initiated by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology in late 2015. To determine eligibility, clinics use the criteria developed by the Department of Defense for active-duty personnel. Payne said SART is working toward the passage of legislation that would make this service a covered benefit for injured veterans.

“This is what the clinics are doing to decrease the cost until that is passed,” he said.

PREG specializes in reproductive endocrinology and infertility treatment. The practice’s headquarters in Greenville contains a surgical suite, as well as an in vitro fertilization laboratory and andrology and endocrine laboratories.

Payne joined the staff at PREG in 2007 after a 15-year military medical career. He is board-certified in both general obstetrics and gynecology and in the subspecialty of reproductive endocrinology and infertility.

“I did go to Iraq in 2006,” he said. “I saw our service men and women. I have a special place in my heart for military people, having been one. We wanted to help in any way we could.”

Payne said a range of injuries could affect fertility, including direct physical injuries from explosive blasts or shrapnel, or even traumatic brain injury that can affect sperm production. In many cases, IVF can be the solution.

“Success rates for IVF have gotten better as the technology has gotten better,” he said.

Though success rates decline as the woman ages, they can be as high as 70 percent delivery in a one embryo transplant in younger women. If sperm issues such as motility are impacting fertility, Payne said seeing a specialist may make a difference.

“The IVF can make up for those things,” he said. “We can even get the sperm surgically. We can really make do with very little sperm.”

But the key is reaching those veterans who qualify.

“If they don’t come in, we can’t help them,” Payne said. “As women age, the fertility declines. The sooner we can see them, the better.”

Discounted medications, which may be needed by women, may be available as well, Payne said.

A consultation can help couples know what path is best for them. Payne said IVF is only one option and sometimes couples just need to know if they are on the right course.

“We would like to talk with them and see if we can help them conceive,” he said. “We do a thorough evaluation to determine the quickest, easiest and least expensive way to conceive.”

Find out more

For details about the Service to Veterans program, contact PREG at