As of Monday, October 3rd, the United States military will begin paying for surgery and other gender reassignment procedures for transgender service members. According to the Defense Department, any service member is eligible to have their gender reassignment treatment costs covered if they are “adversely affected by a medical condition or medical treatment related to their gender identity.” The program could cost the military up to $8.4 million dollars a year.
According to a Rand Corporation report, somewhere between 1,320 and 6,630 of the 1.3 million service members consider themselves transgender, though not all are expected to seek gender reassignment surgery or request hormone treatments. The study estimated that only 30 to 140 would be likely to seek hormone treatment while only 25 to 130 would be likely to seek surgery. It wasn’t until June of this year that the Department of Defense changed its policy to allow transgender service members to openly serve in the military.
Just last month transgender solider Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, went on a hunger strike in jail to protest the army’s failure to cover her reassignment procedures. Manning, who is serving a 35 year sentence for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, will be the first to undergo treatments paid for by the Pentagon. Upon the Army’s approval, Manning released this statement:
“I am unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing. I applaud them for that. This is all that I wanted—for them to let me be me. But it is hard not to wonder why it has taken so long. Also, why were such drastic measures needed? The surgery was recommended in April 2016. The recommendations for my hair length were back in 2014. In any case, I hope this sets a precedent for the thousands of trans people behind me hoping they will be given the treatment they need.”
The start of the military covering gender reassignment procedure costs for millions of dollars comes as heads of military branches have expressed great concerns that they do not have the sufficient funding to adequately perform their duties and keep America safe.