- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2017

Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning will be cut off from health care benefits currently offered by the Department of Defense as a result of President Obama’s decision this week to commute the majority of the convicted WikiLeaks source’s remaining prison sentence, an Army spokesperson said Wednesday.

Manning, 29, is slated to be released from military prison on May 17 after the White House accepted her bid for clemency Tuesday, sparring the soldier from the remainder of a 35-year sentence handed down for convictions of espionage and other charges for supplying classified documents to the website WikiLeaks.

In having her sentence commuted, however, the soldier will also be dishonorably discharged from the military and subsequently stripped of her right to receive health care through the Defense Department, Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith told USA Today.

Notably, Manning’s discharge will likely let the Pentagon avoid paying for future treatment related to the soldier’s gender dysphoria, a condition that causes immense distress in individuals whose psychological identity conflicts with their biological sex.

“If Pvt. Manning is discharged with a dishonorable discharge, she will lose her entitlement to [military] benefits, including gender-transition care at [military] medical treatment facilities,” the spokesperson said.

The discharge will bar Manning from receiving benefits through the Veterans Affairs Department, which for several years has been offering treatment to veterans diagnosed with gender dysphoria, USA Today reported. 

Formerly known as Bradley Manning, the soldier was arrested in 2010 and charged with espionage, theft and other crimes related supplying WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic cables acquired during their tenure as an Army intelligence analyst in the Iraq War.

Manning was ultimately convicted in 2013, and came out as a transgender woman the day after being sentenced.

“I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female,” she said in a statement at the time.

“Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition.”

She legally changed her name to Chelsea Manning in 2014, but sued the Pentagon later that year in an effort to be provided provided treatment for her diagnosis and “in order to express her female gender” while serving time in an all-male prison.

The Defense Department agreed to provide Manning with hormone therapy in 2015, and last year said it would begin providing “medically necessary” treatment to trans service members such as Manning, including gender-reassignment surgery

The Pentagon said previously that the price of treating gender dysphoria will likely amount to between $40,000 and $50,000 for each service member seeking care, Stars and Stripes reported.

“I am unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing. I applaud them for that. This is all that I wanted — for them to let me be me,” Manning said in a statement when the policy change was announced last year.

Weighing in Wednesday, Manning offered her first public statement since being granted clemency.

“Thank you @BarackObama for giving me a chance,” Manning said through a Twitter account operated in her name.

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