Transgenders in Military Debate Preceded Surprise Trump Announcement

By Sandra Basu

WASHINGTON—Citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption,” President Donald Trump recently announced that he was reinstating a ban on transgenders in the military.

It was the latest volley in a battle of ideas about the healthcare implications of allowing transgender Americans to serve in the U.S. military.

Trump’s announcement came after a ban on transgenders in the military was lifted on June 30, 2016. As part of that decision, the MHS has been required to provide transgender troops with all medically necessary care related to gender transition as of Oct. 1, 2016.

A poster from the VA’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) program. www.patientcare.va.gov/LGBT | [email protected]

Under an Aug. 25 executive order, DoD and DHS must halt funding for “sex reassignment surgical procedures for military personnel, except to the extent necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun a course of treatment to reassign his or her sex.” This part of the executive order will take effect on March 23, 2018.

When the ban was lifted last year, DoD cited a RAND Corp. study it commissioned as aiding the decision. That study estimated the number of transgender individuals currently serving in the active component of the U.S. military at between 1,320 and 6,630 out of a total of about 1.3 million service members.

The study estimated “that between 30 and 140 new hormone treatments could be initiated a year and 25 to 130 gender transition-related surgeries could be utilized a year among active component service members. Additional health care costs could range between $2.4 million and $8.4 million, representing an approximate 0.13-percent increase.”

“Only a small portion of servicemembers would likely seek gender transition-related medical treatments that would affect their deployability or health care costs,” Agnes Gereben Schaefer, lead author of the study and a senior political scientist at RAND, said in a statement at the time.

In July, the military services were planning to begin accepting transgender members, but, prior to Trump’s announcement, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis approved a recommendation to delay accessing transgender applicants into the military until Jan. 1, 2018, after further review.

In an Aug 29th statement Mattis said that DoD will establish a study and implementation plan in regards to the ban and that in the interim, “current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place.”

“Our focus must always be on what is best for the military’s combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield.  To that end, I will establish a panel of experts serving within the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to provide advice and recommendations on the implementation of the president’s direction,” he said.

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