In February 2015, military parents Curt and Alexandra Ivins experienced the absolute nightmare of losing their unborn child. While exploring a new town during a long-weekend, their daughter was stillborn at 21 weeks and 5 days. This is an excerpt from their story, shared in a public facebook group.
“Against all odds and every medical opinion, Catherine had lived a God-glorifying 21 weeks and 5 days – and was just short of being able to survive if born early. Shortly after lunchtime on Monday, 16 February 2015, at 1:29 pm God blessed us again as Alex was able to deliver Catherine.
“On 06 March 2015, we laid our sweet Catherine to rest in the small and quiet church graveyard of Kiokee Baptist Church in Appling, Georgia. The same church where little Catherine would kick and flutter inside of Alex as she listened to the church music.”
The Next Hurdle
As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, the Ivins learned that their insurance, the FSGLI, would not cover their daughter, because she did not weigh enough at birth. The exact wording from the policy states:
A member’s natural child—
- (i) Whose death occurs before expulsion, extraction, or delivery; and
- (ii) Whose—
- (A) Fetal weight is 350 grams or more; or
- (B) If fetal weight is unknown, duration in utero is 20 completed weeks of gestation or more, calculated from the date the last normal menstrual period began to the date of expulsion, extraction, or delivery.
Because Catherine was 21 weeks and 5 days, she met the gestational requirement, but because her weight was known—because her mother delivered—she did not qualify. If a D&C had been performed, the weight would have been unknown and therefore she would have qualified. But then her parents would not have been able to hold her.
Why Does This Matter?
The average funeral expenses in the United States range from $7,000 to $9,000, even for a child. The FSGLI provides $10,000 per dependent child. The Ivins also had the additional costs of returning to their hometown to bury their child, which military families can empathize and understand.
The Ivins have been fighting for this change since 2015, and earlier this summer they were finally rewarded with some progress. The Department of Veterans Affairs issued a proposed change to the policy, AQ49-Proposed Rule-Service Members Group Life Insurance: Definition of Stillborn Child for purposes of Coverage. This proposed change removes the 20 weeks AND 350g weight requirement, changing it to 20 weeks OR 350g.
This would align with what the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Fetus and Newborn says about it. They state that the term “stillborn” should be used to describe “fetal deaths at 20 weeks’ gestation or more,” and do not indicate a required weight.
In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Fetus and Newborn, uses the term “stillborn” to describe fetal deaths at 20 weeks’ gestation or more, without regard to a fetus’ weight.(1)
The change would also align with what most states require. In fact, most states require a death report if the fetus is 20 weeks gestational age OR 350 grams, or simply if it is 20 weeks of gestation.(2)
How Can You Help?
As a military spouse and mom you are probably ready to storm the hill to get this changed. Good! We stick together through thick and thin, and we want this rule changed to further support our military families. And you can help. Here’s how:
- Go to the website where the proposed change is posted. (Some plug-ins do not cooperate with this site—yup, surprise, surprise—so disable things like Grammarly.
- Leave a comment. You can say anything from “I support this change,” to a more detailed why you support it. You can see other comments on the page, and you can see what I wrote too.
- Share this with anyone and everyone, there is no military requirement to leave a comment. You can comment, your spouse can comment, your mom, your neighbor. You know people-share!
- Do all of this well before August 26th, when the comment period closes. And because we know the government system, just do it right now and don’t risk it.
- Follow the Ivins story on Facebook for updates.
Supporting fellow military families is what we do. We do this through a variety of ways. Sometimes its meals, sometimes it’s watching a strangers kid so they can go to the hospital as some spouses did for the Ivins in 2015. And sometimes it’s about taking a few minutes and letting our government officials know what we are in this together.
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1. Barfield WD, Committee on Fetus and Newborn. Clinical Reports—Standard Terminology for Fetal, Infant, and Perinatal Deaths. Pediatrics 2011 Jul; 128(1): 177-81.
2. Fetal and Perinatal Mortality: United States, 2013, Table I.
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