Despite many signs of progress made by the Veterans Health Administration, certain hurdles continue to exist for transgender veterans. Currently, the VA has a detailed transgender and intersex health care directive, which outlines specific care and services available.
Currently the guidelines provide a broad range of services from hormonal therapy to mental health care; however, medically necessary gender confirmation surgery is not included and is strictly prohibited. This is unacceptable, and all service members, regardless of their gender identity, deserve access to the full range of medically necessary care they’ve earned serving our nation.
Many folks do not realize that transgender people have served in the Armed Forces at a much higher rate than people may perceive. According to the Williams Institute, approximately 150,000 transgender people have served/are serving in the U.S. military. The VA ranks as one of the top transgender healthcare providers within the United States. In 2013, the VA reported that “2,500 veterans were treated for gender dysphoria.” There is a clear need for services for transgender veterans, and this antiquated policy preventing gender confirmation surgery must be changed.
Misconceptions still surround the meaning of a person transitioning. The transition process is very individual and personal. Furthermore, there is no “right way” to transition either.Despite common misconceptions, not every transgender veteran will want surgery. But for those veterans who do, surgery is often medical necessary and not simply cosmetic.
Currently, the VA is examining ways to change this outdated policy, but it has been a slow process. In the meantime, transgender veterans are left waiting or told to find services outside of the VA. Unfortunately, many only have VA healthcare insurance.
Transgender veterans, like any other veteran, have served this great country with pride and in every conflict in our nation’s history — yet they are left fighting an uphill battle. Without further delay, the VA should work to quickly lift this outdated ban. There has been enough pain and suffering. Lifting the ban would ensure that transgender veterans can finally move forward with their lives and receive the adequate health care they’ve earned.
Gene Silvestri, AMPA’s Veterans Affairs Coordinator, and Jennifer Dane, AMPA’s Diversity and Inclusion Policy Analyst, contributed to this post. To reach them, email Gene at firstname.lastname@example.org and Jennifer at email@example.com