The Pentagon has confirmed that it will pay for the gender transition surgery of an active duty transgender soldier, and that the surgery took place on Tuesday. This is the first time that the Pentagon will fund a sex-reassignment surgery.
The news was first reported exclusively by NBC, which reported that the patient is an Army infantry soldier who identifies as a woman.
NBC cited “a source close to the service member” who also said the soldier received the Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2003.
A waiver for the surgery was approved by Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, head of the Defense Health Agency, which provides medical care to active duty personnel, according to a Defense Department document, NBC reported.
“This afternoon, an active-duty military member received a sex-reassignment surgery. Military hospitals do not have the surgical expertise to perform this type of surgery, therefore it was conducted in a private hospital,” the Pentagon said in a statement on Tuesday, following its initial report, NBC said.
“Because this service member had already begun a sex-reassignment course of treatment, and the treating doctor deemed this surgery medically necessary, a waiver was approved by the director of the Defense Health Agency. The Supplemental Health Care Program will cover this surgery in accordance with the Department’s interim guidance on transgender Service members.”
President Donald Trump in August had issued a memo directing the Department of Defense to stop accepting transgender recruits, and for the Pentagon to halt any future funding for sex-reassignment surgeries. Trump had abruptly announced his transgender troops ban over the summer, via Twitter.
On July 26, Trump announced the ban in three tweets that seemingly blindsided officials and outraged many people.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump tweeted.
“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” he said.
Following the President’s memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that transgender troops will continue to serve in the U.S. military, pending the results of a study from experts Mattis would select who will provide advice on President Trump’s recent memo.
The memo directed the Pentagon to prohibit transgender people from joining the military, and it gives Mattis the power to remove any transgender service member based on deployability.
The Pentagon intends to present new guidance to President Trump by Feb. 21, 2018, on how to implement the transgender ban.
In the meantime, the American Civil Liberties Union has sued Trump over the transgender ban. Late in October, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that there can be no changes to the U.S. Military’s transgender policy while there is a pending case against the proposed ban that is being reviewed in court.