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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.

Go deeper: DOJ issues first direct statements against states targeting trans youth

Go deeper

Sep 21, 2021 - Health

Democrats' case for prioritizing health care policies

Expand chart
Reproduced from Hart Research Associates; Chart: Axios Visuals

Health care advocates are making the case that the pieces of Democrats' legislative agenda that lower health care costs and expand coverage are the most popular with voters — and should thus be prioritized.

Why it matters: Democrats are trying to figure out what topline spending number they have to work with for their reconciliation package. The lower that number goes, the more the party will have to cut from the package.

1 hour ago - World

Iran agrees to resume Vienna nuclear talks in November

Ali Bagheri (R) with Enrique Mora in Tehran on Oct. 14. Photo: Iranian Foreign Ministry handout via Getty

Iran's new chief nuclear negotiator said following a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday that Iran would resume negotiations in Vienna before the end of November, with the exact date to be set next week.

Why it matters: The Vienna talks have been frozen since Iran's new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected in June. This is the most direct commitment from Raisi's government to return to the negotiating table.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats' billionaires tax explained

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There is now legislative language behind the push to tax American billionaires on unrealized capital gains, as Sen. Ron Wyden last night released his 107-page plan.

Why it matters: This would be a sea change in U.S. tax policy, which has only applied to realized gains (otherwise known as income).