WASHINGTON, D.C. — SPARTA celebrates the announcement by Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough that the department will finally begin offering gender-confirming surgeries to transgender veterans. The announcement came Saturday, June 19th, 2021, nearly three months after the announcement that the ban against transgender service in the United States Military was ending.
“[This is] allowing transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” McDonough said during prepared remarks for an event at the Orlando VA Healthcare System in Florida. “We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives.”
Secretary McDonough stressed that implementation of gender-confirming surgeries will not take place immediately, but rather the department will review its current policies and practices with an eye towards making changes that enable VA medical facilities to carry out the procedures.
“This is progress, make no mistake,” said SPARTA Communications Director LeAnne Withrow. “But we aren’t going to see surgeries being done tomorrow. The rules-changing process could take months or perhaps even years. Regardless, those changes are finally being made and what is important is that this is a massive step forward for transgender veterans and military transgender healthcare.”
Secretary McDonough also highlighted the disparities in care that LGBTQ+ veterans face in the current healthcare environment.
“LGBTQ+ veterans experience mental illness and suicidal thoughts at far higher rates than those outside their community,” McDonough said. “But they are significantly less likely to seek routine care, largely because they fear discrimination. At the VA, we’re doing everything in our power to show veterans of all sexual orientations and gender identities that they can talk openly, honestly and comfortably with their health care providers about any issues they may be experiencing.”
This step, along with many recent changes to policies across various government agencies, are strong indicators of a bright, equitable, and inclusive future for transgender servicemembers and veterans.
"Providing medically necessary care to all our veterans is the right thing to do,” said SPARTA President Bree Fram. SPARTA applauds this move towards that goal by the VA"