Democrats Are Pushing VA Officials to Expand Their Health Care Offerings for Transgender Veterans
WASHINGTON, D.C. – September 14, 2018
On Wednesday, September 6, a group of 83 House members (82 Democrats and one Republican) petitioned Veterans Affairs’ Secretary Robert Wilkie to change department policy change towards funding sex reassignment surgeries for transgender veterans.
In a letter to Wilke the group is calling the current department policy discriminatory and potentially harmful to the health of those veterans.
“Simply put, the VA has an obligation to provide the necessary care that is prescribed to enrolled veterans by their health care practitioners,” the letter said.
“It is unconscionable to deny veterans the same access to health care services that civilians receive in the private sector, and that is available to Medicare beneficiaries and federal workers, simply because of outdated and unscientific prejudice against their gender identity.”
The letter started with the statement: “Our country has made a sacred commitment to care for those who have borne the battle, and that includes the more than 163,000 transgender veterans' who have served their country in uniform”.
U.S. Representative for Connecticut's 5th Congressional District Elisabeth Esty, who signed the letter, tweeted about the initiative.
The VA’s prohibition on surgical treatment for veterans experiencing gender dysphoria is not only discriminatory, but it also puts the health and well-being of transgender veterans at risk.— Elizabeth Esty (@RepEsty) September 10, 2018
“Caring for our military servicemen & women is one of our top priorities. And, for the more than 163,000 transgender veterans who selflessly answered the call to service, that means ensuring they have ability to access gender affirming surgeries”.
Some of the commentators accused the authors of manipulating the numbers:
“Where the Heck did you get those numbers? From the those dumb UCLA transgender estimates? I read your reference and it's all wrong. As of 2016, the ACTUAL number of Veterans who have gotten treatment by the VA as Trans for the past 18 years was…5,135”, said one commentator.
“What about liposuction for all the overweight vets? Penis enlargement? Plastic surgery to not have scars or be ugly? Hair transplant for the bald?”, another Twitter user added.
Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., led that effort and in a statement called it “unacceptable that we would ask our veterans to risk their lives to protect our rights but we would refuse to defend theirs in return.”
“By excluding medically necessary treatments from its medical benefits package, the VA hurts transgender veterans who have served their country, harming their health and in some cases putting their lives at risk.”
According to the letter, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Nursing, the American College of Physicians, the American Medical Student Association, and the American Nurses Association, have argued against the VA’s current ban on covering surgical treatment for gender dysphoria.
The move came at the end of a two-month comment period on the possible policy change. VA officials have discussed allowing the surgeries to be covered in the last few years, but have not made any updates, prompting some advocates to sue the department.
VA spokesman Curt Cashour said the department is reviewing comments collected during the summer on the issue and will announce any changes through formal federal channels.
Some transition-related surgeries, such as mastectomies and hysterectomies, are already provided by VA as part of care for other conditions. The VA does provide medical support services for transgender individuals before and after sex reassignment surgery, but not the procedure itself.
According to Military Times, when specifically asked about transgender veterans — and President Donald Trump’s past comments that the military should not provide medical treatments to transgender troops — Wilkie said that VA “is proud to provide care, benefits and other VA services to all veterans, including transgender veterans. That policy will remain unchanged.”
Many veterans and family members are outraged by initiative.
“Anything, that is elective, should not be allowed. Cripes, bad enough, military veterans/retirees of over 20 years, them and their spouses only get just the basic of healthcare..with the V.A. and government howling due to budget cuts this and that. HOWEVER I dont see the higher ranking officers and their families cut due to budget cuts..IT amazes me, how ..uncle sam, seems to always have all this extra cash for modern generation sex change stuff (meds we are footing the bills for now arent we?)..now they pusing for the surgery too. As with everythign else, they whinning about it..and calling it "discrimination"..sooner or later, at taxpayers expense, this nonsense will go through. I will say this..Im glad Im of the babyboomers stage of life..WHEN all the modern generation ways of doing/thinking things take completely over..I dont wanna be around..MY GOD..what a stinking mess ...”, said Sandra Jean.
“Military and VA law says that "medical care is only provided for conditions that are service connected, and those conditions must have been caused or aggravated during military service due to war, or accidents". How is someone’s sexual preference fit in this category, they can change their mind at any given moment and go back and forth”, Asked Mark Hutchens, a veteran from Greeneville, Tennessee.