Secretary Denis McDonough is expected to announce that transgender veterans will be offered gender confirmation surgery for the first time according to the Military Times.
“[This is ] allowing transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” McDonough said in prepared remarks for an event at the Orlando VA Healthcare System in Florida. “We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates there are more than 134,000 transgender veterans in America today, and another 15,000 transgender individuals serving in the armed forces.
VA officials estimate that around 4,000 veterans nationwide will be interested in the surgeries. Total cost of the program is not yet known. The department also could not say when surgeries will be available, since officials must first go through a formal rule change process.
McDonough said making the change “will require changing VA’s regulations and establishing policy that will ensure the equitable treatment and safety” of transgender veterans.
“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.”
In a statement, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif. and the first openly gay minority individual elected to Congress hailed the move.
“Veterans in need of gender confirmation surgery should not have to seek healthcare outside of the VA health system or navigate complicated processes to get the care they need,” he said. “VA must be inclusive of all veterans who have served, regardless of their identity.”