V.A. Plans to Provide Gender-Affirming Surgical procedures for Transgender Veterans


WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to offer transgender veterans sex confirmation surgery, veterans affairs secretary Denis McDonough announced at a Pride event in Orlando, Florida over the weekend, in a major shift in available care for former service members.

“This process requires a change in VA regulations and the establishment of guidelines to ensure the equitable treatment and safety of transgender veterans,” said McDonough on Saturday at the event, noting that the change would take time. But he said the surgical needs of transgender veterans were “long-deserved.”

Gender-affirming procedures reconstruct sexual organs corresponding to the sex a person identifies with and have been shown to alleviate serious health concerns such as substance abuse, suicide and suicidal ideation, an administrative official said, explaining the decision to change the policy. The procedures that were once related to cosmetic surgery are now widely recognized as effective treatments for such problems.

The process of changing health benefits for transgender veterans could take years, and it is unknown how many veterans would have sex confirmation surgery. The administrative officer said internal estimates showed fewer than 4,000 veterans would be interested in the care.

There are more than 134,000 transgender veterans, according to an estimate by the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The annual cost of the new services would depend on whether they were provided by the Veterans Affairs Department or by external partners.

“An update to this policy would enable VA to provide transgender and gender-diverse veterans with coordinated, medically necessary, transitional surgical procedures,” a department spokesman said.

President Biden has also sought to restore civil rights protection to LGBTQ people who were eliminated by President Donald J. Trump. On his first day in office, Mr Biden signed an executive order combating discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

As a result, the Department of Health and Human Services banned providers from discriminating against gays and transgender people and restored protection to transgender people seeking shelter and homeless services. The Trump administration had denied them access to same-sex accommodation based on their gender identity.

The policy change in the Veterans Affairs Department is the latest move by the Biden administration to end years of discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members of the military. A Trump-era ban on transgender service providers was lifted on the fifth day in Mr Biden’s office.

“The remains of bigotry remain,” said Mr. McDonough.

He also announced on Saturday that the ministry is changing the name of its LGBTQ health program to LGBTQ + health program, naming it “language that proudly reflects new community standards of inclusion” and anticipating future changes.

“Even something as simple as displaying VA-specific rainbow magnets has been shown to make our hospitals more welcoming,” said McDonough, signaling to LGTBQ + vets that we are there for them. “