Jun 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

VA takes "first necessary steps" toward offering gender affirmation surgeries

Denis McDonough, secretary of Veterans Affairs, speaking during a press conference in the White House in March 2021.
Denis McDonough, secretary of Veterans Affairs, speaking during a press conference in the White House in March 2021. Photo: Erin Scott/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Department of Veteran Affairs is beginning the process of offering gender affirmation surgeries through its health care system, Veteran Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced during a Pride event in Florida on Saturday.

Why it matters: The change would greatly expand the care available to transgender veterans, since the surgeries have never been widely covered by the department's health care plan.

  • A 2016 RAND Corporation study estimated that the number of active-duty transgender troops could range from 2,000 to 11,000, but stressed that the true number could vary based on self-reporting.

What they're saying: "We are taking the first necessary steps to expand VA's care to include gender affirmation surgery — thus allowing transgender vets to go through the full gender affirmation process with VA by their side," McDonough said.

  • "There are several steps to take, which will take time. But we are moving ahead, methodically, because we want this important change in policy to be implemented in a manner that has been thoroughly considered to ensure that the services made available to Veterans meet VA's rigorous standards for quality health care," he added.

The big picture: The announcement comes after President Biden in January overturned former President Trump's ban on openly transgender people serving in the military.

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