McDonough will announce the move Saturday at a Pride event at the Orlando Weight Center in Florida, according to the spokesperson.
McDonough’s prepared remarks said, “We are taking the first necessary step to expand the VA’s care to include gender confirmation surgery – thus allowing transgender veterinarians to undergo the full gender confirmation process with the VA.” allowed.” CNN obtained a copy of the speech.
The change marks a significant change in the care of eligible transgender veterans. The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates that there are approximately 134,000 transgender veterans.
While the VA health benefits package includes coverage of mental health services and hormone therapy, it excludes coverage or funding for gender confirmatory surgery, which is considered a “medically necessary intervention” for people with gender dysphoria, the condition Medical professionals use to describe a “crisis over incompatibility between one’s gender and anatomy,” according to an opinion piece in the AMA Journal of Ethics.
Gender confirmation or gender-affirming surgery is a procedure to reconstruct the sex organs so that a person’s sexual anatomy matches the gender with which they identify. Gender-affirming surgery was previously viewed as a cosmetic or elective surgery, but research shows that surgery is an effective treatment for people who have gender dysphoria.
A VA spokesperson said gender confirmation surgery “has proven effective in reducing serious health conditions, including suicide, substance abuse, and dysphoria.” McDonough’s prepared remarks noted that LGBTQ+ veterans “experience mental illness and suicidal thoughts at a far higher rate than those outside their community.”
Major medical associations such as the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association have issued statements supporting gender-affirming coverage, which includes medical and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria. According to an opinion in the AMA Journal of Ethics, major insurance companies in many states, including Blue Cross Blue Shield and Kaiser Permanente, also recognize gender confirmation surgery as a medically necessary health benefit, not just cosmetic surgery. In.
McDonough’s announcement is just the beginning of the process. For gender confirmation surgery to be covered by VA health care and to be included in the coverage offered at VA hospitals, the policy will need to be changed. The process of creating a new federal regulation can take years. The VA plans to begin the federal rulemaking process to make this change this summer, a VA spokesperson said.
“There are many steps to be taken, which will take time,” McDonough’s prepared remarks said. “But we are moving forward, systematically, because we want this important change in policy to be implemented in a way that has thoroughly considered the need to ensure that the services provided to Veterans are of quality health. Meets the VA’s rigorous standards for care.”
McDonough also ordered a review at the end of February, which continues of all department policies, “to ensure that transgender veterans and employees do not face discrimination based on their gender identity and expression.”
Changing VA health care policy is an affirmative action toward making real progress, Jennifer Dane, executive director of the Modern Military Association of America, an advocacy organization that supports LGBTQ+ veterans and military service members, told CNN. Told.
Dan told CNN in a statement: “Making true progress requires more than words and we are thrilled to hear Secretary McDonough’s announcement that the VA will continue to expand care to include gender confirmation surgery and update health services.” expanding.” “These are clear examples of turning words into actions, the way we can keep moving forward.”