The Government of the United States Sunday announced it planned to cover the costs of sex-change surgery for veterans who wished to undergo such a treatment. Until now, only hormone therapy and psychological services were provided.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough announced a Gay Pride parade in Orlando, Florida, marking the fifth anniversary of a shooting at a gay-friendly city nightclub
A spokesman for the department said that the two-year process to start covering surgical expenses will begin this summer for the more than 134,000 transgender veterans believed to be in the United States military, 15,000 of them still in service.
“We are taking the first necessary steps to expand VA’s care to include gender-confirmation surgery, thus allowing transgender vets to go through the full gender-confirmation process with the VA by their side,” McDonough was quoted as saying.
The new benefit marks President Joseph Biden’s latest effort to expand transgender services and protections. Within the first few days, after he took office in January, he signed executive orders expanding protections under federal anti-discrimination laws to transgender people and ending former president Donald Trump’s ban on transgender troops in the military.
Gender-reassignment surgery has been available to active-duty troops, but the VA has been limited to offering mental-health services and hormone therapy to veterans diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
The National Center for Transgender Equality has estimated that there are about 134,000 transgender veterans – a figure that the VA has adopted as fact. But the estimate may be dubious. It would mean that 1.5% of American veterans identify as a gender other than the one they were born with. Less than 0.6% of US adults identify as transgender, according to a 2016 study by the Williams Institute.
The VA plans this summer to begin the federal rulemaking process to make gender-reassignment surgery available. Such policy revisions can take years to finalize. “We are moving ahead, methodically, because we want this important policy change to be implemented in a manner that has been thoroughly considered to ensure that the services made available to Veterans meet VA's rigorous standards for quality health care,” McDonough said.
Despite ever-increasing outlays, the VA has been plagued by breakdowns in providing services to which veterans are legally entitled. A 2020 study by OutVets, a group of LGBTQ veterans, found that about 400,000 former troops are at risk of wrongfully being denied healthcare services because of misapplication of rules concerning other-than-honourable discharges.