Ban On ‘Medically Necessary’ Surgery For Transgender Veterans To Finally Be Reversed
After twenty years, the Department of Veterans Affairs is moving to make gender affirmation surgery part of its healthcare offering.
At the moment, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers mental health services and hormone therapy services for trans veterans. However, a 20-year-old ban on gender affirmation surgery is now being lifted as the government intends to offer more comprehensive health coverage, with confirmation surgery considered a ‘medically necessary intervention’ for some.
VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced, during a Pride event at the Orlando Vet Center in Florida on Saturday, June 19, that the first steps towards gender affirmation surgery being included in a plan would be taken.
Speaking a week after the fifth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in the Florida city, McDonough said the greater offering from the health care plan was ‘the right thing to do.’
McDonough told CNN:
We are taking the first necessary steps to expand VA’s care to include gender confirmation surgery – thereby allowing transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA at their side.
There are several steps to take, which will take time. But we are moving ahead, methodically, because we want this important change in policy 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.
A spokesperson for the VA also explained these changes were important because gender confirmation surgery had ‘been proven effective at mitigating serious health conditions, including suicidality, substance abuse, and dysphoria.’ In fact, McDonough noted this move comes on the back of the ‘recommendation of our clinicians, so this is a health care decision that has very real physical health care impacts as well as significant mental health impacts.’
As a result, it is hoped that the move to enabling the surgery would help issues of transgender veterans not getting the treatment they need. McDonough said, ‘Due in part to minority stress, LGBTQ+ veterans experience mental illness and suicidal thoughts at far higher rates than those outside their community, but they are significantly less likely to seek routine care, largely because they fear discrimination.’
A spokesperson for the VA said the organisation will begin the federal rulemaking process for the change in health coverage this summer.
Many have praised this shift in policy. Gina Duncan, director of transgender equality for the statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization Equality Florida, told the Orlando Sentinel:
In a moment of fierce state and local backlash against the transgender community, this move by the Biden administration is a reminder that elections matter
Support for transgender veterans and the lifesaving health care they need to live authentically is a critical component to fulfilling our nation’s promise of caring for those who’ve served.
This policy change comes after the Biden Administration has already removed Trump’s anti-inclusive policies that included banning transgender people from military service.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equity, there are an estimated 134,000 transgender veterans of the American military, as well as an estimated 15,000 transgender active servicemembers.
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National Center for Transgender Equity,