- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2016

Transgender veterans may soon be eligible for sex-reassignment surgeries if a proposed rule change at the Department of Veterans Affairs is approved.

The Executive Office of the President recently announced the possible rule change on its website.

“Surgical procedures are now widely accepted in the medical community as medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria,” the announcement stated. “Additionally, recent medical research shows that gender dysphoria is a serious condition that has had severe medical consequences for certain patients if transition-related surgeries and procedures are not provided.

“In light of these medical advances and recent research, VA would revise its regulation to remove the prohibition on medical services that are considered gender alterations,” the website said. “In this way, medical decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis about what procedures are medically necessary to treat gender dysphoria.”

VA officials declined to say precisely when the rule was first proposed, but said it has been mulled since at least 2014, Time magazine reported Thursday.

“At that time some of these surgical procedures were not as well-developed as they are now,” Jillian Shipherd, a co-director of the VA’s LGBT health care program, told the magazine. “The science about what the international standards of care are was very different from where we are today.”

Gene Silvestri, VA coordinator with the American Military Partner Association, which advocates for LGBT veterans, cheered the move.

“This sets a tone. The VA is part of the government,” Mr. Silvestri told The Wall Street Journal Friday. “We’ll see a change in treatment and culture and acceptance.”

The moderator of Doctrine Man, a popular news aggregator for the military community, said the decision could be seen as the agency not properly prioritizing its most urgent problems.

“I do take issue with this change, but more so because I think the VA has bigger issues on its plate than this, and the decision to perform such surgeries isn’t as simple as it seems on the surface,” the website reported. “There’s also the issue of service connection, but I don’t think that plays a role here since the VA treats pretty much any condition for qualified veterans. And I don’t think there’s a long line of ‘suffering veterans’ standing outside the VA today waiting for this surgery, but there are a lot of others waiting for other procedures. So, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see where this goes.”

The proposed rule change is open for public comment, The Journal reported. No date has been issued for a final decision.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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