McDonough will announce the move at a Pride event at the Orlando Vet Center in Florida later Saturday, according to the spokesperson.
“We are taking the necessary first steps to expand VA care to include gender confirming surgery – allowing transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” state prepared remarks from McDonough. CNN obtained a copy of the speech.
The change marks a substantial shift in care for eligible transgender veterans. The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates that there are approximately 134,000 transgender veterans.
Although the VA Health Benefits package includes coverage for mental health services and hormone therapy, it excludes coverage or funding for gender confirming surgery, which is considered a “medically necessary intervention” for people with the condition. of gender dysphoria, the disease of health professionals. use to describe “distress over the incongruity between sex and anatomy,” according to an opinion piece in the AMA Journal of Ethics.
Gender Confirmation or Gender Affirmation Surgery is a procedure to reconstruct the sexual organs so that a person’s sexual anatomy matches the gender they identify with. Gender-affirming surgery was initially considered cosmetic or elective surgery, but research shows that surgery is an effective treatment for people with gender dysphoria.
Sex confirmation surgery has “been shown to be effective in alleviating serious health problems, including suicide, drug addiction and dysphoria,” a spokesperson for VA said. LGBTQ + veterans suffer from “mental illness and suicidal thoughts at far higher rates than those outside their community,” say the remarks prepared by McDonough.
Leading medical associations such as the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and American Psychiatric Association have issued statements supporting gender-affirming coverage, which includes medical and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria. Major insurance companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield in many states and Kaiser Permanente, have also recognized gender-affirming surgery as a medically necessary health benefit, not just cosmetic surgery, according to an article by opinion published in the AMA Journal of Ethics.
McDonough’s announcement is just the start of the process. In order for gender-confirming surgery to be covered by VA health care and included in coverage offered in VA hospitals, policy changes will need to be made. The process of creating a new federal regulation can take years. The VA plans to begin the federal rule-making process to make this change this summer, an VA spokesperson said.
“There are several steps to go through which will take time,” McDonough’s prepared remarks state. “But we are moving forward, methodically, because we want this important policy change to be implemented in a way that has been carefully considered to ensure that the services available to Veterans meet the rigorous standards of VA. for quality health care. ”
McDonough also ordered in late February an ongoing review of all ministry policies to “ensure veterans and transgender employees do not face discrimination on the basis of their gender identity and expression.”
Changing VA healthcare policy is positive action toward creating real progress, Jennifer Dane, executive director of the Modern Military Association of America, an advocacy organization that supports LGBTQ + veterans and members of the military service.
“It takes more than words to make real progress and we are thrilled to hear Secretary McDonough’s announcement that the VA is expanding care to include gender-confirming surgery and updating health services to qu ‘they’re more inclusive,’ Dane told CNN in a statement. “These are clear examples of turning words into deeds, the only way to keep moving forward.”