June 21, 2021
The Veterans Administration will offer gender-affirming surgery to transgender veterans, VA secretary Denis McDonough said at a pride month event in Orlando on Saturday.
According to Orlando SentryMcDonough said the policy change was the right thing to do for people who have been persecuted because of their sexual orientation. VA clinicians have reported that many LGBTQ + veterans suffer from mental health issues as a result of discrimination, he said.
“For generations, servicemen who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or related identities have faced blatant discrimination or worse – not just in our military, but in many aspects of their lives. “McDonough said.
“This is the dark history that we must overcome, in VA and in America, and it echoes this day, in horrific incidents like the Pulse nightclub shooting that devastated this community five years ago.”
McDonough said it could take several years to expand the VA’s ability to perform the surgeries.
“This time around will allow VA to develop the capacity to meet the surgical needs that transgender veterans have long claimed and deserved, and I am proud to begin the delivery process,” McDonough said.
VA press secretary Terrence Hayes said the department expects fewer than 4,000 veterans to want surgery, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
A 2016 study by RAND Corp. estimated that there could be 2,000 to 11,000 transgender soldiers on active duty, but that the actual number could vary.
The announcement is a major change from current VA policy. In 2013, the VA began providing mental health counseling and prescription hormone therapy to transgender veterans, but declined coverage for gender reassignment surgery.
The announcement comes after President Joe Biden in January rescinded former President Donald Trump’s ban on openly transgender people from serving in the US military.
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