Adam Polaski

Access to Health Care Expanded for Trans Veterans

Filed By Adam Polaski | June 12, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Department of Veterans Affairs, GID, intersex, National Center for Transgender Equality, sex reassignment surgery, transgender, Veterans Associations

VeteransAssociations.jpgOn Thursday, the Veterans Health Administration, the body responsible for overseeing medical and mental healthcare for U.S. military veterans, announced a directive that acknowledges the unique health care needs of transgender and intersex veterans. The directive establishes new policies to ensure that trans and intersex people are treated respectfully and without discrimination by health care providers.

The directive reads:

VA provides health care for transgender patients, including those who present at various points on their transition from one gender to the next. This applies to all Veterans who are enrolled in VA's health care system or who are otherwise eligible for VA care, including: those who have had sex reassignment surgery outside of VHA, those who might be considering such surgical intervention, and those who do not wish to undergo sex reassignment surgery, but self-identify as transgender.

Trans patients are now eligible to receive all medical benefits, which include a list of trans and intersex veterans' specific needs. These include hormonal therapy, mental health care, preoperative evaluation, and "medically necessary post-operative and long-term care following sex reassignment surgery."

The directive confirmed that sex reassignment surgery and "plastic reconstructive surgery for strictly cosmetic purposes" would still not be covered, under existing regulations from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The directive also includes provisions that keep patients' transgender status confidential, require health care providers to refer to patients based on their self-identified gender, and distinguish between trans and intersex individuals. Under these new policies, veterans will not have to be diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder in order to receive care consistent with their self-identified gender.

This is an important step toward progress for veterans associations in the United States and could foreshadow changes in the broader, civilian fight for equal health care access for trans individuals. The National Center for Transgender Equality released a statement celebrating the directive:

This Directive is an important first step in securing equal access for transgender veterans, and healthcare access for transgender people generally, by setting an example of how healthcare providers in both the public and private sector should be treating transgender patients.

After November 30, 2012, the directive will expire and be incorporated into the Veterans Association manual as a formal policy.

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As a Transsexual Veteran I plan on raising hell about this new policy. For one thing I don't view SRS as being cosmetic I view it as life saving for those who need it. I also do not self identify as transgender yet this policy blatantly labels me and any other post -op transsexual as Transgender whether they wish to be or not. I also consider my needs in working towards SRS and receiving srs as a medical treatment. This new policy relegates that treatment as being nothing more than a choice.I am filing under the freedom of information act to find out who lobbied for this new directive and then I will provide the VA with the information needed to prove those who pushed it such as TAVA have zero rights to either represent me or to influence VA policy in how they identify or treat me.

I'd also like to point out that if SRS is cosmetic then all the treatments covered by this new directive are cosmetic and therefore should not be covered by the VA. The VA should also not recognize someones male or female claimed gender identity because that is also cosmetic.

All in all, given the uneveness of VA treatment, a set of solid guidelines is pretty positive.

As with all tigs, there will be those who feel that this is not enough -- and these are people who generally have not had involvement on any of the work, and are too insecure.

I'm rather glad to see this -- as a veteran myself, it shows a willingness on the part of the VA to change policies that at one time caused me to forgo using that benefit.

I'll consider using it now. Consider -- there's a lot of deep seated bad blood twixt myself and the VA that has many a year behind it.

Just so you know Antonia I have had a lot of contact with the VA regarding TS issues. I've had some serious problems with the VA and this new directive is what is going to cause me to unload on them for all the past problems I've had and the discrimination that I feel this new policy puts on me. Unlike the many that claim their Veteran status proudly but washed out for less than honorable conditions I actually finished my service.I also have legitimate grounds to file serious complaints against the VA and they are all documented.You for congress you've got to be joking.

you don't live in the district I'm running in, so not exactly a big worry for you to say I'm joking.

As for the rest, go for it. Seriously.

Never said you shouldn't.

Enjoy it.

Well, I think that going forward once the VA does see the numbers of Trans Vets that the policy may be challenged as being less than full access to medical care. Also, to term SRS/GRS as cosmetic flies in the face of numberous professional medical associations and the IRS.

I dunno, maybe gather all of the Trans Vets and file a class action law suit for full medical coverage?

But, honestly I think that in a few years the coverage will expand to include SRS/GRS for Trans Vets. Maybe even sooner, after all some VA's DO provide some surgeries. I know of a few places that do Orchi's and Mastecomies. I've even heard of a few who do SRS/GRS on a case by case basis.

Being a VA employee and also a Veteran this is a major change in policy to get all VA's on the same page because there have only been a few VA's in the past that ever participated in Trans Healthcare. Of course, there will always be some Vets that will say its not enough. They want SRS and scream they should get it. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but how many health insurance carriers in the public sector do you know have SRS coverage??? Not many, so be thankful for what they are providing. I know I will because it will be less VA's contacting me for any treatment before which was the case.