WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — Secretary Denis McDonough
announced Saturday at a Pride Month
event in Orlando
that the Department of Veterans
Affairs will begin offering gender confirmation surgery to transgender
McDonough said in prepared remarks that the move was “the right thing to do,” and that it was part of an effort to overcome a “dark history
” of discrimination
service members. The move is only the first step in what will most likely be a years-long federal rulemaking process to expand VA health benefits to cover the surgery, but McDonough said the VA will use the time to “develop capacity.”
According to McDonough, the decision will allow "transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side." He also mentioned higher rates of mental illness and suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ veterans, as well as a fear of discrimination that prevents those veterans from seeking care.
“We’re making these changes not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it has the potential to save lives,” he explained.
McDonough stated that the decision was made based on the “recommendation of our clinicians, so this is a health care
decision with very real physical
health care implications as well as significant mental health
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, there are over 134,000 transgender veterans and over 15,000 transgender individuals currently serving in the military
McDonough's announcement is the latest in a series of steps taken by the Biden administration
to strengthen protections and benefits for transgender service members.
President Joe Biden
signed an executive order just days into his presidency overturning the Trump administration
's ban on transgender people
serving in the military, and McDonough ordered a review of the department's policies in February to "ensure that transgender Veterans and employees do not face discrimination on the basis of their gender identity