Today, the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation’s largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) military families, released the following statement following news that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is withdrawing its proposal to provide medically necessary gender confirmation surgery for transgender veterans.

The VA had previously proposedrule change to lift its outdated ban on gender confirmation surgery, however as reported by Military.com, the rule change was “kicked back by the Office of Management and Budget because the VA did not include a plan for how they would fund the change, a senior department official said.”

“All of our nation’s veterans, regardless of their gender identity, deserve access to the medical care they earned serving our nation,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack in response to the news. “This is a deeply disappointing setback in making sure an often medically necessary procedure for transgender veterans is part of that care. Moreover, as we face a new incoming administration, we implore fair-minded Americans to stand united in holding our new administration officials accountable by insisting this be fixed. The medical care of all our nation’s heroes, including transgender veterans, must be a priority.”

VA officials told Military.com, “VA has been and will continue to explore a regulatory change that would allow VA to perform gender alteration surgery and a change in the medical benefits package, when appropriated funding is available. Therefore, this regulation will be withdrawn from the Fall 2016 Unified Agenda.”

According to the Williams Institute, there are “approximately 150,000 transgender adults in the US who are now serving or who have served in the armed forces.” In 2013, the VA reported that more than 2,500 transgender veterans were treated for gender dysphoria — the medical term for the condition when someone’s gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Currently, VA guidelines provide a broad range of services to transgender veterans, from hormonal therapy to mental health care; however, medically necessary gender confirmation surgery is not included.

In advocating for the rule change, Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois recently pointed out in an op-ed in the Advocate, “… several studies and the experience of some states and employers have found that providing gender-confirmation surgery based on individual medical necessity has extremely little to no net cost for large insurers. Even better, it potentially provides long-term savings to governments by preventing future medical and mental health care costs, such as treatment of suicide attempts or substance abuse.”


 

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