July 30, 2018

Veterans Affairs Secretary Wilkie should expand care to transgender veterans

By Kayla M. Williams

This week Robert Wilkie was confirmed as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. I had the honor of serving under him as Director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans during his brief tenure as Acting Secretary and recognize the vast array of urgent issues that will immediately require his attention once he is sworn in – not least of which is calming the personnel churn that has plagued the department in recent months.

Among these matters is determining whether VA should amend its regulation on providing medical care for transgender veterans. As part of his nomination process, Wilkie said if he were to be confirmed, VA’s policy on providing care to transgender veterans “will remain unchanged.” This would be good news if VA currently provided all medically necessary care to transgender veterans; however, it does not. 

“Gender alterations” is one of a handful of treatments specifically excluded in VA’s medical benefits package, and the Department is currently requesting comments on whether that rule should be eliminated. As Secretary, Wilkie should oversee a change to VA policy that would fulfill our national obligation to provide medically necessary, effective care to eligible veterans.

As I learned while working on the RAND report Assessing the Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly, transition-related surgery is a component of the consensus-based treatment standards for gender dysphoria endorsed by the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, and other respected professional associations. Major insurers, corporations focused on recruiting top talent by offering comprehensive health insurance plans, and a growing number of states have accepted the strong body of supporting evidence. The DoD report questioning the science has been thoroughly refuted and is not considered credible by medical experts.

Read the Full Article at The Hill

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