An active-duty member of the U.S. military received a sex-reassignment surgery which was covered by the Department of Defense this week.
Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement released to the media that the member had “already begun a sex-reassignment course of treatment,” and that “the treating doctor deemed this surgery medically necessary.”
First reported by NBC News, the servicemember identifies as a woman and has previously fought in Afghanistan, where she earned the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB). According to Ms. White, the procedure was not performed by military medical personnel, saying “Military hospitals do not have the surgical expertise to perform this type of surgery, therefore it was conducted in a private hospital.”
“The supplemental Health Care Program will cover this surgery in accordance with the Department’s interim guidance on transgender Service members,” her statement reads.
News of the procedure being covered by tax-payer dollars highlights the ongoing controversy over transgender Americans serving in the military, and that it is far from a resolution. Two weeks ago, a federal judge temporarily blocked President Trump’s plan to ban transgender Americans from serving, which was set to take effect in March of 2018. The ruling “stops a plan to discharge all transgender troops, allows current transgender troops to re-enlist and permits transgender recruits to join the military starting in January,” according to the New York Times.
President Trump abruptly announced a transgender ban in July via Twitter. Since then, Department of Defense officials have maintained policy that was established in 2016 to allow current members to stay while any future ban policy was worked out. Trump signed a memo in August which would have stopped the government from paying for sex reassignment surgery, a move which was also blocked by a federal judge.
Trump’s new policy was met with multiple lawsuits from LGBT and civil rights groups who argue such a ban violates transgender Americans’ constitutional rights.
The oft-cited RAND Corporation 2016 study regarding transgender military service estimates that there are 1,320 to 6,520 active duty transgender servicemembers, and that their unique healthcare treatments would cost the Pentagon $2.4 to $8.4 million annually.
Image courtesy of Mariordo Camila Ferreira & Mario Duran via Wikipedia