Case: Sheffield v. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

1:23-cv-11757 | U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts

Filed Date: Aug. 2, 2023

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This case involved Section 234 of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2021 (“2021 Appropriations Act”), which gave the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) the authority to provide in-vitro fertilization (“IVF”) services to veterans. The 2022 Appropriations Act was, in pertinent part, identical. Section 234 of the 2021 Appropriations Act authorized “fertility counseling and treatment using assisted reproductive technology to a covered ve…

This case involved Section 234 of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2021 (“2021 Appropriations Act”), which gave the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) the authority to provide in-vitro fertilization (“IVF”) services to veterans. The 2022 Appropriations Act was, in pertinent part, identical. Section 234 of the 2021 Appropriations Act authorized “fertility counseling and treatment using assisted reproductive technology to a covered veteran or the spouse of a covered veteran.” Under Section 234, “assisted reproductive technology” meant “benefits relating to reproductive assistance provided to a member of the Armed Forces who incurs a serious injury or illness on active duty . . . as described in the memorandum on the subject of Policy for Assisted Reproductive Services for the Benefit of Seriously or Severely Ill/Injured (Category II or III) Active Duty Service Members issued by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs on April 3, 2012 [“2012 Memo”], and the guidance to implement such policy, including any limitations on the amount of such benefits available,” except that the time periods regarding embryo cryopreservation did not apply. One of the limitations referred to by Section 234, which was included in the 2012 Memo, was that benefits are “limited to permitting a qualified members to procreate with his or her lawful spouse, as defined in federal statu[t]e and regulation.” 

VHA Directive 1334 implemented Section 234, defining VA’s “policy for ensuring access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) services for Veterans who are unable to procreate as a result of their service-connected condition.” The directive required that a veteran meet several criteria to be eligible for IVF services: (1) the veteran must have a service-connected condition that results in the inability to procreate without the use of fertility treatment; (2) the veteran must, if female, have an intact uterus and either be able to make eggs or have had their own eggs cryopreserved or, if male, be able to make sperm or have had his own sperm cryopreserved; and (3) the veteran and their spouse must be a cisgender opposite-sex legally married couple, or other legally married couple with opposite-sex gametes/reproductive organs. Under the 2021 and 2022 Appropriations Acts and VHA Directive 1334, cisgender same-sex spouses were barred from eligibility for IVF even if they met all other criteria to qualify for such services.

On August 2, 2023, the plaintiff, a decorated former veteran, filed this class action suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The plaintiff brought this suit on behalf of herself and all similarly situated persons against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”).  The plaintiff sought to represent a class of “all veterans who have been denied the opportunity to obtain IVF services by VA or who have been denied reimbursement for services from private providers by VA because the veteran is in a same-sex marriage.” Represented by the National Veterans Legal Services Program and private counsel, the plaintiff claimed the VA’s IVF policies were discriminatory against veterans in same-sex marriages and violated (1) the Equal Protection Clause under the Fifth Amendment, (2) the Due Process Clause under the Fifth Amendment, and (3) the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act. The plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief, enjoining the defendant permanently from enforcing eligibility requirements under VHA Directive 1334 and ceasing its policies denying access to IVF to veterans in same-sex marriages, as well as permanently enjoining the provisions of the 2021 and 2022 Appropriate Act and VHA Directive 1334. The plaintiff also sought compensatory damages and attorneys’ costs.      

The case was assigned to District Judge Leo T. Sorokin and Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley. As of April 10, 2024, this case remains ongoing.

Summary Authors

Tallulah Wick (4/3/2024)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/67657512/parties/sheffield-v-us-department-of-veterans-affairs/


Judge(s)

Sorokin, Leo Theodore (Massachusetts)

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Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document
1

1:23-cv-11757

Complaint

Aug. 2, 2023

Aug. 2, 2023

Complaint

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/67657512/sheffield-v-us-department-of-veterans-affairs/

Last updated April 26, 2024, 6:52 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
1

COMPLAINT against Ivan E. Correa, Denis McDonough, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Filing fee: $ 402, receipt number AMADC-9973513 (Fee Status: Filing Fee paid), filed by Ashley Sheffield. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1, # 2 Exhibit 2, # 3 CACS and Category Sheet)(Stefanilo, Michael) (Entered: 08/02/2023)

1 Exhibit 1

View on PACER

2 Exhibit 2

View on PACER

3 CACS and Category Sheet

View on PACER

Aug. 2, 2023

Aug. 2, 2023

Clearinghouse

Notice of Case Assignment

Aug. 2, 2023

Aug. 2, 2023

PACER
2

NOTICE of Appearance by Michael Stefanilo, Jr on behalf of Ashley Sheffield (Stefanilo, Michael) (Entered: 08/02/2023)

Aug. 2, 2023

Aug. 2, 2023

PACER
3

NOTICE of Appearance by Monica Towle on behalf of Ashley Sheffield (Towle, Monica) (Entered: 08/02/2023)

Aug. 2, 2023

Aug. 2, 2023

PACER
4

ELECTRONIC NOTICE of Case Assignment. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin assigned to case. If the trial Judge issues an Order of Reference of any matter in this case to a Magistrate Judge, the matter will be transmitted to Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley. (Horvath, Courtney) (Entered: 08/02/2023)

Aug. 2, 2023

Aug. 2, 2023

PACER
5

Summons Issued as to All Defendants. Counsel receiving this notice electronically should download this summons, complete one for each defendant and serve it in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 4 and LR 4.1. Summons will be mailed to plaintiff(s) not receiving notice electronically for completion of service. (Currie, Haley) (Entered: 08/02/2023)

Aug. 2, 2023

Aug. 2, 2023

PACER
6

MOTION for Leave to Appear Pro Hac Vice for admission of Renee Burbank Filing fee: $ 125, receipt number AMADC-9986515 by Ashley Sheffield.(Stefanilo, Michael) (Additional attachment(s) added on 8/10/2023: # 1 Declaration) (Dore, Samantha). (Main Document 6 replaced on 8/10/2023) (Dore, Samantha). (Entered: 08/10/2023)

Aug. 10, 2023

Aug. 10, 2023

PACER

Order on Motion for Leave to Appear AND Order on Motion for Leave to Appear

Aug. 10, 2023

Aug. 10, 2023

PACER

Order on Motion for Leave to Appear

Aug. 10, 2023

Aug. 10, 2023

PACER
7

MOTION for Leave to Appear Pro Hac Vice for admission of Peter Romer-Friedman Filing fee: $ 125, receipt number AMADC-9986538 by Ashley Sheffield.(Stefanilo, Michael) (Additional attachment(s) added on 8/10/2023: # 1 Declaration) (Dore, Samantha). (Main Document 7 replaced on 8/10/2023) (Dore, Samantha). (Entered: 08/10/2023)

Aug. 10, 2023

Aug. 10, 2023

PACER
8

District Judge Leo T. Sorokin: ELECTRONIC ORDER entered granting 6 Motion for Leave to Appear Pro Hac Vice Added Renee Burbank. Attorneys admitted Pro Hac Vice must have an individual PACER account, not a shared firm account, to electronically file in the District of Massachusetts. To register for a PACER account, go the Pacer website at https://pacer.uscourts.gov/register-account. You must put the docket number on your form when registering or it will be rejected.Pro Hac Vice Admission Request Instructions https://www.mad.uscourts.gov/caseinfo/nextgen-pro-hac-vice.htm.A Notice of Appearance must be entered on the docket by the newly admitted attorney. (Dore, Samantha) (Entered: 08/10/2023)

Aug. 10, 2023

Aug. 10, 2023

PACER
9

MOTION for Leave to Appear Pro Hac Vice for admission of Ryan Kelley Filing fee: $ 125, receipt number AMADC-9986566 by Ashley Sheffield.(Stefanilo, Michael) (Additional attachment(s) added on 8/10/2023: # 1 Declaration) (Dore, Samantha). (Main Document 9 replaced on 8/10/2023) (Dore, Samantha). (Entered: 08/10/2023)

Aug. 10, 2023

Aug. 10, 2023

PACER
10

District Judge Leo T. Sorokin: ELECTRONIC ORDER entered granting 7 Motion for Leave to Appear Pro Hac Vice added Peter Romer-Friedman and granting 9 Motion for Leave to Appear Pro Hac Vice added Ryan Kelley. Attorneys admitted Pro Hac Vice must have an individual PACER account, not a shared firm account, to electronically file in the District of Massachusetts. To register for a PACER account, go the Pacer website at https://pacer.uscourts.gov/register-account. You must put the docket number on your form when registering or it will be rejected.Pro Hac Vice Admission Request Instructions https://www.mad.uscourts.gov/caseinfo/nextgen-pro-hac-vice.htm.A Notice of Appearance must be entered on the docket by the newly admitted attorney. (Dore, Samantha) (Entered: 08/10/2023)

Aug. 10, 2023

Aug. 10, 2023

PACER
11

NOTICE of Appearance by Ryan Kelley on behalf of Ashley Sheffield (Kelley, Ryan) (Entered: 08/17/2023)

Aug. 17, 2023

Aug. 17, 2023

PACER
12

NOTICE of Appearance by Renee A Burbank on behalf of Ashley Sheffield (Burbank, Renee) (Entered: 08/17/2023)

Aug. 17, 2023

Aug. 17, 2023

PACER
13

SUMMONS Returned Executed by Ashley Sheffield. (Stefanilo, Michael) (Entered: 10/17/2023)

Oct. 17, 2023

Oct. 17, 2023

RECAP
14

SUMMONS Returned Executed by Ashley Sheffield. (Stefanilo, Michael) (Entered: 10/17/2023)

Oct. 17, 2023

Oct. 17, 2023

PACER
15

SUMMONS Returned Executed by Ashley Sheffield. (Stefanilo, Michael) (Entered: 10/17/2023)

Oct. 17, 2023

Oct. 17, 2023

PACER
16

NOTICE of Appearance by Laura Bakst on behalf of Ivan E. Correa, Denis McDonough, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Bakst, Laura) (Entered: 10/31/2023)

Oct. 31, 2023

Oct. 31, 2023

PACER
17

NOTICE of Appearance by John Robinson on behalf of Ivan E. Correa, Denis McDonough, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Robinson, John) (Entered: 10/31/2023)

Oct. 31, 2023

Oct. 31, 2023

PACER
18

NOTICE of Appearance by Kuntal Cholera on behalf of Ivan E. Correa, Denis McDonough, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Cholera, Kuntal) (Entered: 10/31/2023)

Oct. 31, 2023

Oct. 31, 2023

PACER
19

District Judge Leo T. Sorokin: New Civil Cases General Procedural ORDER entered.(Dore, Samantha) (Main Document 19 replaced on 10/31/2023) (Dore, Samantha). (Entered: 10/31/2023)

Oct. 31, 2023

Oct. 31, 2023

RECAP
20

NOTICE of Appearance by Laura Katherine Smith on behalf of Ivan E. Correa (Smith, Laura) (Entered: 11/02/2023)

Nov. 2, 2023

Nov. 2, 2023

PACER
21

Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to January 8, 2024 to File Answer by Ivan E. Correa, Denis McDonough, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.(Robinson, John) (Entered: 11/02/2023)

Nov. 2, 2023

Nov. 2, 2023

RECAP
22

District Judge Leo T. Sorokin: ELECTRONIC ORDER entered re 21 Motion for Extension of Time to Answer re 21 Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to January 8, 2024 to File Answer by Ivan E. Correa, Denis McDonough, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. ALLOWED. (Belmont, Kellyann) (Entered: 11/06/2023)

Nov. 6, 2023

Nov. 6, 2023

PACER

Order on Motion for Extension of Time to Answer

Nov. 6, 2023

Nov. 6, 2023

PACER
23

Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to March 8, 2024 to File Answer by Ivan E. Correa, Denis McDonough, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.(Bakst, Laura) Modified on 1/3/2024: Updated docketing event. (Dore, Samantha). (Entered: 01/03/2024)

Jan. 3, 2024

Jan. 3, 2024

PACER

Order on Motion for Extension of Time to Answer

Jan. 3, 2024

Jan. 3, 2024

PACER
24

District Judge Leo T. Sorokin: ELECTRONIC ORDER entered: re 23 Consent MOTION for Extension of Time to March 8, 2024 to File Answer.ALLOWED. (Dore, Samantha) (Entered: 01/03/2024)

Jan. 3, 2024

Jan. 3, 2024

PACER
25

NOTICE of Withdrawal of Appearance by Monica Towle (Towle, Monica) (Entered: 01/29/2024)

Jan. 29, 2024

Jan. 29, 2024

RECAP
26

Extension of Time to File Answer

Feb. 29, 2024

Feb. 29, 2024

RECAP

Order on Motion for Extension of Time to Answer

March 1, 2024

March 1, 2024

PACER
28

Extension of Time to File Answer

April 10, 2024

April 10, 2024

PACER

Order on Motion for Extension of Time to Answer

April 10, 2024

April 10, 2024

PACER

Case Details

State / Territory: Massachusetts

Case Type(s):

Public Benefits/Government Services

Reproductive Issues

Key Dates

Filing Date: Aug. 2, 2023

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

A decorated former veteran on behalf of herself and "all veterans who have been denied the opportunity to obtain IVF services by VA or who have been denied reimbursement for services from private providers by VA because the veteran is in a same-sex marriage."

Plaintiff Type(s):

Non-profit NON-religious organization

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Pending

Defendants

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Washington, D.C., - United States (national) -), Federal

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Hospital/Health Department

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Ex Parte Young (Federal) or Bivens

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Due Process: Substantive Due Process

Equal Protection

Available Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Outcome

Prevailing Party: None Yet / None

Nature of Relief:

None yet

Source of Relief:

None yet

Issues

General/Misc.:

Government services

Marriage

Parents (visitation, involvement)

Discrimination Area:

Disparate Impact

Disparate Treatment

Medical Exam / Inquiry

Pay / Benefits

Discrimination Basis:

Sex discrimination

Sexual orientation

Affected Sex/Gender(s):

Female

Intersex

Male

Transgender

LGBTQ+:

LGBTQ+

Medical/Mental Health Care:

Medical care, general

Medicare eligibility determination

Reproductive rights:

Reproductive health care (including birth control, abortion, and others)