Great news -- the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is finally opening up full transgender health care benefits including confirmation surgeries to veterans who depend on the department for their needs.
VA Secretary Denis McDonough framed the decision as a way to literally save the lives of veterans who commit suicide because they cannot transition into the full people they really are or could be if the option were available to them.
The decision, he said, will allow “transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side.” McDonough also referenced what he said were higher rates of mental illness and suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ veterans, and a fear of discrimination that prevents those veterans from seeking care.
“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives,” he said.
My closest friend is a veteran who just recently discovered who she really is and when I read the news my eyes could not have possibly lit up any brighter.
Transition related health care is expensive and surgery is out of reach for many even if you're fortunate enough to have insurance that covers it. Most veterans have little to no out of pocket cost, however, and this offers an opportunity to transgender veterans who served during previous times when society and especially the military was not accepting of transgender service members.
The Biden administration only recently reinstated transgender military service that was originally allowed by the Obama administration before it was banned by the Trump regime. Transgender military service was not openly accepted prior to President Obama's time in office, but that does not mean there were no transgender service members; it only meant they could not serve openly. Moreover, some veterans do not discover themselves until later in life.
Military service should not be the only path to living a full life as a transgender person, but fully funding transition related health care costs for active members and veterans is a path out of poverty and disparity for many.
If I were younger, I would consider it.