Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, head of the Defense Health Agency, has announced that the United States military’s Tricare health system now covers transgender military family members and retirees. The official policy has not yet gone live, however, Bono told reporters that hormone therapy and mental health counseling for “gender dysphoria,” is already available, as of August 18, 2016. Military facilities will now provide select transgender treatment options. By law Tricare can not cover voluntary sex-change surgery but will cover sex-change surgery when deemed “medically necessary.”
The official policy will go live on October 1, 2016. Bono has stated that transgender family members can seek treatment immediately. She stated to military.com reporters:
“I’m not going to wait for the final policy. We’re going to go ahead and do that because that’s what our patients need,”
Tricare is currently working with local and regional contractors to grant approval for treatment that will be covered under the new policy effective on Oct. 1. She has stated that if the contractors do not approve the treatment she will do it herself. She stated during an interview at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson:
“What I’m trying to do right now is give that approval level to the contractors, and if that’s still not in place, then it comes up to me and I wave it. I don’t think we need to wait for the actual policy to be signed and wait for the ink to be dried. It’s something we can do.”
On October 1, 2016 the Defense Department will release and official handbook to all commanders and transgender service members that will be affected by the new policy. The handbook will offer medical guidance to transitioning service members and official policy for providing transition care to transgender troops.
The new policy was needed after the military lifted a ban on active-duty transgender service members in June. Bono has stated that the Department Health Agency(DHA) and Tricare are working together to make the implementation of the new policy as seamless as possible.