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Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough is taking steps toward making gender transition surgery available to veterans through Veterans Affairs health-care coverage, according to a new report.
A VA department spokesperson reportedly told CNN that McDonough plans to announce the move at a Pride event at the Orlando Vet Center in Florida on Saturday.
“We are taking the first necessary steps to expand VA’s care to include gender confirmation surgery — thus allowing transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” McDonough is expected to say.
The VA Health Benefits package currently covers mental-health services and sex-change hormones, but does not cover gender-transition surgery.
McDonough’s prepared remarks note that “there are several steps to take, which will take time.” Policy changes will need to be made and the process of creating a new federal regulation can take years.
A VA spokesperson told CNN the department plans to start the federal rulemaking process to make the change this summer.
The announcement comes amid an ongoing review of all VA policies to “ensure that transgender Veterans and employees do not face discrimination on the basis of their gender identity and expression.” McDonough ordered the review at the end of February.
The shift also comes one month after the Biden administration signaled that the federal government would begin interpreting Section 1557 — the non-discrimination provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — to include a ban on discrimination based on sexual identity, rather than banning discrimination based on biological sex, as the Trump administration had.
The change will likely require that states, which set their own Medicaid eligibility requirements, provide gender-transition surgery and hormone therapy to Medicaid recipients.
Opponents of the surgery argue that it is invasive and harms reproductive health. Those who advocate against the procedure say it carries a sizeable threat of regret, which increases the risk of post-surgery suicide and depression.