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Transgender Veterans Deserve All Medically Necessary Care

Post submitted by Breanna Diaz, HRC Legislative Counsel

Our nation’s veterans have sacrificed to protect our country. As part of our compact with them, the U.S. government ensures they have the health care services they need. Unfortunately, transgender veterans do not have access to some medically necessary care, including gender affirming surgery.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has taken significant steps to ensure that transgender veterans are treated with respect at VA facilities and have equal access to some medically necessary health care, including treatment of gender dysphoria. HRC has welcomed these important services. Unfortunately, the current regulation categorically excludes gender affirming surgery, which is essential to the health and well-being of transgender veterans.

On Tuesday, HRC sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald asking the department to repeal its categorical exclusion on medically necessary gender affirming surgery from medical benefits. The letter highlights the VA exclusion is inconsistent with the past several years of federal court decisions and federal agencies, like the Department of Defense, recognition that discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Moreover, such discrimination is in direct violation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which prohibits discrimination in medical care on the basis of sex, including gender identity.

HRC urges the VA to swiftly repeal the exclusion and issue new regulations expressly extending medical benefits to gender affirming surgery. The denial of this most basic benefit violates the dignity of all transgender veterans.