In a somewhat surprising move, the Pentagon announced Monday that it plans to cover sex reassignment surgery for transgender troops.
Prior to this announcement, the Pentagon’s policy was only to cover some cases of cosmetic surgery, as in most cases it would be considered elective. Now, supposing a physician thinks it’s necessary for a particular individual to undergo sex reassignment surgery and health officials give the go-ahead, the Pentagon will step in and take care of it, Military Times reports.
Monday’s announcement of the dramatic shift in coverage comes shortly after the military decided Sept. 13 to authorize sex reassignment surgery for Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst who is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking 700,000 military files to WikiLeaks, after he launched a hunger strike.
The Army had already approved hormone therapy in 2015, but that wasn’t enough for Manning.
“I am unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing. I applaud them for that. This is all that I wanted — for them to let me be me,” Manning said.
“I hope this sets a precedent for the thousands of trans people behind me hoping they will be given the treatment they need,” Manning added.
Manning’s protests do seem to have set a precedent, but while the Pentagon will now cover sex reassignment for active-duty troops, non-active duty servicemembers under Tricare will miss out.
According to Pentagon spokesman Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson, Tricare will begin covering therapy and hormone treatments, but not surgery.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter declared on June 30 that gender dysphoria in and of itself would no longer be enough to disqualify a person from service. Rather, as long as that person suffering from dysphoria can pass standards, that person should be allowed to serve alongside everyone else.
In many cases, Pentagon officials don’t even expect that transgenders will opt for sex reassignment surgery, preferring instead to choose hormone therapy.
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