By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com May 16 2013 6:25 PM ET
After a long series of paperwork was filed, the Department of Defense has finally recognized a veteran as a transgender woman.
Autumn Sandeen served on four ships during 20 years in the military before retiring and coming out as trans. The military's system that manages retiree pay and services, though, had always tracked Sandeen as male.
That changed after what Sandeen describes in a column on LGBT Weekly as "onerous." She lists seven documents that were required before wining the change, and some are much harder to come by than others. For example, DOD requires an original or notarized copy of a changed birth certificate.
"Considering that only approximately half the states in the Union allow changes to birth certificates to change one’s gender, the DOD policy on changing a veteran’s recorded gender is out of reach of a large number of trans former servicemembers," Sandeen wrote.
But Sandeen hopes that the effort alongside OutServe-SLDN to document the process will make it easier for others. "In a very direct way, documenting and publishing procedures will give other trans military retirees a template for how to accomplish changing their own DOD documented gender," Sandeen wrote.
BuzzFeed posted a copy of the letter in which Sandeen is informed, "Per your request the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) has been updated to show your gender as female effective April 12, 2013."
There's an important exception to this process, as long as it is. No matter if a trans veteran completes all the necessary steps, a DOD spokesman told BuzzFeed it won't "change a gender in DEERS if it results in a loss of benefits to the spouse of the retired member due to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)."
Sandeen also points out that despite this change, still she can't get an updated DD214, which is a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.
Here are the documents as Sandeen wrote about them in LGBT Weekly:
The DOD’s requirements are more onerous. They require all of the following documents to change one’s recorded gender:
1. Changed birth certificate (original or notarized copy)
2. Court order: name change document (original or notarized copy)
3. Notarized letter indicating surgical transition letter
4. Court order: change of gender (original or notarized copy)
5. Copy of updated Social Security Card or notarized copy of current Social Security Benefits indicating changed name and SSN
6. Copy of driver’s license, state-issued ID card, or passport with new name and gender indicated
The following additional document is a required document if one has a spouse that is enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS):
7. Notarized letter from the retired servicemember’s spouse indicating that he or she understands that after the DOD documents the gender change they will lose their Tricare coverage.