The Department of Veterans Affairs has decided to drop the plans of covering same sex surgeries for transgender veterans.
Although it’s has been a controversial topic, the federal agency claims it is due to budget constraints.
News first surfaced in June that the VA was proposing a rule change to lift the long-standing ban and allow coverage of surgeries deemed medically necessary on a case-by-case basis.
In their statement to Miltary.com Monday, they said they still plan on continuing to offer assistance to transgender veterans by offering “hormone therapy, mental health care, preoperative evaluation” and other services. However, gender reassignment surgeries will be put on the back burner until “adequate funding is available.”
“Increased understanding of both gender dysphoria and surgical techniques in this area has improved significantly and is now widely accepted as medically necessary treatment,” the statement said. “VA has been and will continue to explore a regulatory change that would allow VA to perform gender alteration surgery.”
With the announcement of President-elect Donald Trump last week, the concern for equal coverage is a fear in LGBTQ community.
Although Trump has yet to specifically commented on the VA surgery proposal, his whole campaign structure of a return to “traditional” values and railing against political correctness, as well as the notoriously anti-LGBTQ VP Mike Pence, gives you a glimpse into his stance.
While this might seem like a temporary setback to some, putting the rule change on hold puts into question when and if it will happen in the future. This question is further amplified with the fact that Republicans opposed to the change will control the White House and Congress come January.
According to the Williams Institute, approximately 150,000 transgender adults are now serving or who have served in the US armed forces. In 2013, the VA reported that more than 2,500 transgender veterans were treated for gender dysphoria. These statistics highlight the overwhelming need for coverage. Although people openly serve in the U.S. military as transgender, nine percent of those who served reported that they were discharged on account of being transgender or gender non-conforming.
“All of our nation’s veterans, regardless of their gender identity, deserve access to the medical care they earned serving our nation,” Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, said in a statement. “This is a deeply disappointing setback in making sure an often medically necessary procedure for transgender veterans is part of that care.”
Top image – Navy SEAL veteran turned transgender activist Kirstin Beck