The Department of Veterans Affairs is looking into changing regulations so that VA hospitals can provide gender-confirming surgery, which alters a transgender person's sexual characteristics to match the person's gender identity, according to the Washington Post
The Post noted that a document on a government regulations site that the VA is proposing to remove a rule that prohibits the surgery.
There are an estimated 134,000 transgender veterans or retirees in the National Guard or the Reserves, according to a study by the Williams Institute
, a UCLA think tank. 15,500 transgender people are on active duty in the Guard or Reserves, according to the study.
The VA document said that "increased understanding" suggests that the VA changes its rule that the surgery is not deemed medically necessary.
The document goes on to state, "Surgical techniques in this area have improved significantly, and surgical procedures are now widely accepted in the medical community."
Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, apparently has concerns about the change.
"I've presided over a number of hearings and heard from countless witnesses, including VA and veterans service organization officials, veterans, and their family members. In all that time, not once has anyone raised this issue as a pressing need," Miller said in the Post report.
Miller, a Republican, said he was calling on VA Secretary Bob McDonald to explain the change, since he said the surgeries "have no connection to military service."
Ashley Broaway-Mack, president of the Military Partner Association, which supports spouses and partners of LGBT veterans, said veterans have earned the right to that care. "So many of our nation's heroes, including transgender veterans, rely on the VA for medical care—care that they have earned serving our nation."
"Gender confirmation surgery is often a critically important and medically necessary treatment for many transgender veterans, and lifting this ban is long overdue," Broadway-Mack said in the Post.
A spokesman for the VA told the Post that covering the surgeries is in the proposal stage. "We are not there yet," the spokesman said.
Medicare lifted its ban on the surgery in 2014. Transgender veterans have petitioned the VA to remove the ban, according to a Time magazine
reported in 2014 that in the previous year, the VA treated 2,567 veterans with transgender-specific care.
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