WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Defense will now cover costs for the sex change operations of soldiers in active duty, according to reports.
“[A] Defense Department spokesman said Monday that the option is available to all transgender active duty troops if their doctors recommend it and senior military health officials approve it,” the Military Times outlines.
As previously reported, the Pentagon announced in June that it would end the nation’s ban on open transgenders in the military. It had advised last year that a six-month study would be conducted to determine whether lifting the ban could have any adverse effect on battle preparedness.
The study was to encompass a variety of aspects, such as how transgenders will be housed, what uniforms they will wear, what bathrooms they will use, and what physical fitness/training standards they will be held to as a person that now seeks to be known as the opposite gender.
Officials also planned to consider whether the government will pay for “gender reassignment” surgeries and other treatments sought by those who identify as transgender.
Now, according to a Military Times report released on Monday, the Pentagon will indeed pay for such operations as long as the military member is active duty.
“According to [spokesman Air Force Maj. Ben] Sakrisson, gender reassignment surgeries for active duty personnel will be conducted at either a military hospital or, if qualified care is unavailable at a military facility, at a private hospital paid by Tricare,” it said.
The notation comes a week after it was announced that the Pentagon would cover the sex change operation of Army private Bradley Manning, who since 2013 has gone by the name Chelsea. Manning is currently serving a 35-year sentence in Leavenworth for leaking classified information to Wikileaks.
He had been permitted to receive hormone treatments last February, but had not been cleared for surgery until Sept. 13.
“[Monday’s] announcement clarifies the scope of treatment available to transgender military personnel and differs significantly from earlier Defense Department statements, which noted that cosmetic surgery for gender reassignment ‘in most cases’ would be considered elective and not covered by the military health system,” the Military Times said.
As previously reported, the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty expressed concern in July following a conference call with a Pentagon official who outlined the implications of lifting the ban on open transgenders in the military. The Alliance said that the new policy could be especially adverse for Christian doctors.
“An endorser on the call asked whether medical professionals who hold a biblical view on human sexuality will be required to violate their consciences and do as these persons demand,” Chaplain (COL) Ron Crews, USA Retired, who serves as the executive director of the Alliance, explained in a statement, “and the response was that it is the responsibility of medical professional to serve military persons.”
“The Department of Defense must ensure a service member is not forced to violate his or her conscience and that doctors and nurses who hold to a biblical view of human sexuality can serve in today’s military,” he said. “Congress has spoken on this issue in the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act.”
Crews also advised that endorsers were told that military members with “mixed genitalia” may be present in showers and barracks as they will be in the process of changing their identity.