On Saturday, VA Secretary Denis McDonough spoke at a Pride Month event in Florida and said that the agency was “taking the first necessary steps to expand VA’s care to include gender confirmation surgery.”
Paying for the expensive surgeries, McDonough said, will allow “transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA at their side.”
“There are several steps to take, which will take time. But we are moving ahead, methodically, because we want this important change in policy to be implemented in a manner that has been thoroughly considered to ensure that the services made available to Veterans meet VA’s rigorous standards for quality health care,” he added.
McDonough asserted that “due in part to minority stress, LGBTQ+ veterans experience mental illness and suicidal thoughts at far higher rates than those outside their community, but they are significantly less likely to seek routine care, largely because they fear discrimination.”
The VA Health Benefits package currently covers mental health services and hormone therapy, The Hill reports.
In January, Joe Biden signed an executive order lifting the ban on most transgender people serving in the military.
“President Biden believes gender identity should not be a bar to military service and that America’s strength is found in its diversity,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at the time. “America is stronger around the world when it is inclusive.”
A 2016 RAND study estimated that between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender service members are in the active duty military, while between 830 and 4,160 members are in reserves duty.