VA Plan to Cover Gender-Confirmation Surgery Scrapped

Hospital room

The Department of Veterans Affairs will not be paying for vets’ gender-confirmation surgeries in the near future after all.

The department withdrew a proposed rule change, submitted in June, that would have allowed such surgeries to be performed at VA hospitals, citing problems with funding, Military.com reports.

The federal Office of Management and Budget rejected the rule change because the VA didn’t have a plan for paying for surgeries, a senior VA official told the site. Agencies must consider costs when proposing rule changes, under a 2011 executive order from President Obama. OMB’s action doesn’t mean it opposes the change, but simply that it requires a funding plan, the official said. The VA “will continue to explore” changing the rule, said a statement from the department.

But with Republican Donald Trump incoming as president, the change may not happen. Trump has not taken a clear stand on policy for transgender vets or active-duty service members, but he has supported state laws that restrict trans people’s rights.

Transgender veterans and their allies expressed disappointment but vowed to keep up the fight. “It’s very frustrating to even see or hear that they are doing that because of all the work that many people before me have done,” trans vet Leila Ireland told Military.com. “But it’s important to remember that even though they are changing their minds right now, there’s going to be a way and we’re going to find that way. Everything happens for a reason and we’re not going to be set back.”

“All of our nation’s veterans, regardless of their gender identity, deserve access to the medical care they earned serving our nation. This is a deeply disappointing setback in making sure an often medically necessary procedure is part of that care,” Ashley Broadway, president of the American Military Partner Association, said in a statement issued to the site. “We implore fair-minded Americans to stand united in holding our new administration officials accountable by insisting this be fixed.”

The VA provides hormone therapy, mental health care, preoperative evaluation, and long-term care following gender-confirmation surgery to trans vets, but not the surgery itself. The Department of Defense announced this year, in lifting the ban on transgender troops (many trans people have been serving but closeted), that it would cover gender-confirmation surgery for qualifying active-duty trans service members, but veterans are not included.

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