Biden administration to offer ‘life-saving’ gender affirmation surgery to trans military veterans
The Biden administration has announced that it is beginning the process of providing gender affirmation surgery to trans military veterans.
On Saturday (19 June), secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Denis McDonough announced the move at a Pride event in Orlando, Florida, commemorating the victims of the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse LGBT+ club in which 49 mostly Latinx queer people were killed.
According to The Washington Post, McDonough said that the department was committed to overcoming its “dark history” of discriminating against trans military employees, and that the two-year process of starting to provide affirming surgery to trans veterans would begin this summer.
He explained: “This time will allow VA to develop capacity to meet the surgical needs that transgender veterans have called for and deserved for a long time, and I am proud to begin the process of delivering it.”
The process would be long, he said, because policy changes need to be made, but McDonough promised that it would done “transparently” and “in full coordination with Congress”.
“[This is] allowing transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” he added.
“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do but because they can save lives.”
The change marks a vast improvement in the department’s attitude towards trans service members and veterans compared to both the Trump and Obama administrations.
In 2013, under Obama, the department of Veterans Affairs issued a directive insisting that it would not “provide sex reassignment surgery”, despite being responsible for life-long healthcare services for veterans.
Under Trump, trans people were banned from serving openly in the military altogether, a rule which was overturned by president Biden shortly after his inauguration.
Terrence Hayes, spokesperson for the department of Veterans Affairs, told The Washington Post that the cost of providing gender affirmation surgery to transgender veterans was unknown, but that around 4,000 veterans were expected to take it up.