In an announcement Saturday, June 19, 2021, Secretary Denis McDonough of The Department of Veteran Affairs is moving to offer transgender veterans gender confirmation surgery.  He made the announcement at a Pride Month event in Orlando, Florida.

In McDonough’s prepared remarks, he said, “The move was the right thing to do, and it was part of an effort to overcome a dark history of discrimination against LGBTQ service members.” 

The move is just the first step in what’s likely to be a years long federal rulemaking process to expand VA health benefits to cover the surgery.  McDonough said, “The VA will use the time to develop capacity to meet the surgical needs of transgender veterans.”

McDonough said, “The decision will allow transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with the VA by their side.”  He also referenced what he said were higher rates of mental illness and suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ veterans, and a fear of discrimination that prevents those veterans from seeking care.

“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives, and the decision was based on the recommendation of our clinicians, so this is a health care decision that has a real physical health care impacts as well as significant mental health impacts,” McDonough stated.

The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates that there are more than 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 moves by the Biden administration, when on January 2, 2021, just days into his term. President Joe Biden signed an executive order overturning a Trump administration ban on transgender individuals serving in the Military.

McDonough, in February also ordered a review of the department’s policies to ensure that transgender Veterans and employees do not face discrimination on the basis of their gender identity and expression.

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