What Are the Military Vasectomy Rules?

Blood samples sit in tubes.
Blood samples sit in tubes. (U.S. Air Force/Adrianne Bremmer)

We want my husband to get a vasectomy, but we heard that they have military vasectomy rules for who can get one based on age, number of kids you already have and even the kids' gender. My husband's buddy told him that the doctor said he can't get a vasectomy unless he is over 30-years-old or has three kids of any gender or, if he only has two kids, one boy and one girl. Is that true?

We've heard a lot of conflicting reports on the subject of vasectomies and the military, too. And it seems like everyone you ask has a different answer.

There are two types of military vasectomy coverage -- one for military dependents and one for service members.

For military dependents who receive health care through Tricare, military vasectomy rules, according to Tricare's policy, are very cut and dry. (Pardon the pun.)

Yes, they cover vasectomies. No, they do not cover reversals.

If the patient is a military dependent, he can self-refer (if on Tricare Standard) to a urologist or receive a referral from his primary-care manager (if on Tricare Prime). And while the urologist may tell him he should wait, Tricare itself has no age or number of children requirements. However, they do not cover reversals, so you better be sure sterilization is what you want.

For active-duty service members, things are a little bit more complicated and access to the procedure depends heavily on the provider.

According to Pentagon officials, there are no hard and fast (again, the puns ... ) military vasectomy rules for active-duty members. While some states require a "cool-down period" between when the consent form is signed and the surgery is performed, none of the services has written policies in place.

But here is where it gets complicated: Because there are no specific rules, whether a service member is permitted to receive a vasectomy is completely up to the doctor in charge or even the physician's assistant in his unit. And that's where the rules your husband's buddy heard about come in.

The doctor at Madigan Army Medical Center, Washington, may have different rules about who he gives the procedure to than the urologist at National Naval Medical Center, Maryland.

"There are clinically recognized standards for consideration of a sterilization procedure, to include age of the patient, number of children, reasons for desiring the procedure, etc.," Maj. James Brindle, a Pentagon spokesman, told us in a written statement. "Many of these can be subjective, so it is ultimately up to the independent clinical judgment of the provider to determine if a patient is a good candidate for the procedure."

As for reversals, some military hospitals will perform them for active-duty members; however, there is often a long waiting list. 

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