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DoD spent $15 million on transgender medical treatment for 1,892 troops over 5 years

An LGBTQ flag (torbakhopper/Flickr)
June 18, 2021

The Department of Defense has spent $15 million on treatment for transgender service members, including $3.1 million for surgeries for those service members, between January 2016 and May 2020, according to DoD documents obtained by first reported Friday.

The $15 million in treatment costs went to treat 1,892 transgender troops. The DoD spent most of the money, $11.5 million, for psychotherapy treatment for those transgender troops. Another $340,000 went to provide hormone therapy for transgender troops during that same five-year time frame.

In total, the $3.1 million spent on surgeries went to cover the cost of 243 gender reassignment surgeries, an average cost of about $12,757 per surgery.

50 of the surgeries took place between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2017, and the remaining 193 surgeries occurred between Jan. 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2019 — the two year time period after President Donald Trump announced he would bar transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military.

The Trump-era policy itself a reversal of a policy laid out in the final year of President Barack Obama’s administration. In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced transgender individuals already serving in the military would be allowed to serve openly and transgender individuals could enlist in the military, beginning on July 1, 2017.

Trump announced his plan to overturn the Obama-era policy in July of 2017. At the time, he said, the DoD should not be “burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”  

In 2018, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis more fully fleshed out the Trump-era rules on transgendered service members, clarifying that ban would only apply to individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the medical term for an individual’s conflict between their perceived gender and their biological sex. Under the Trump-era rule, transgendered individuals not diagnosed with gender dysphoria could continue to serve, but only under their actual biological sex.

Within days of taking office, President Joe Biden ordered the reversal of the Trump-era ban on individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria from serving in the military. Biden’s decision effectively allowed openly transgendered individuals to serve in the military, regardless of whether they have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Defense Health Agency (DHA), 1,892 military personnel have been diagnosed and treated for gender dysphoria. DHA spokesman Peter Graves said the 1,892 troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria include 726 Army soldiers, 576 Navy sailors, 449 Air Force airmen and 141 Marines.

The total number of service members across the military who identify in a transgendered manner is unknown.

In 2018, The Palm Center, a public policy think tank focused on LGBT issues, estimated there are 14,707 transgender troops serve in the U.S. armed forces, including about 9,000 on active duty and 5,727 in military reserve components.