The Biden administration has rolled out a plan to use taxpayer funds to pay for gender transition surgeries for veterans, sparking a backlash from some conservatives on Capitol Hill and other critics who said the White House should spend the money elsewhere.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced the new policy Saturday during a Pride event in Orlando, Florida.
The initiative will not go into effect right away, and it will likely take years for the federal government to write new rules and regulations extending VA health care benefits to cover the “gender confirmation” procedures.
Mr. McDonough said the move will allow “transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side.”
“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives,” he said.
At least 134,000 American veterans identify as transgender, according to the The National Center for Transgender Equality.
Mr. McDonough said the VA will spend the next several years building the “capacity to meet the surgical needs” of those transgender veterans across the country.
The announcement is the latest in a string of progressive moves by the Biden administration on transgender rights and health care issues.
Earlier this year, the Defense Department scrapped Trump-era policies that largely banned transgender people from serving in the military. An executive order signed by President Biden immediately prohibited any service member from being forced out of the military on the basis of gender identity. It also prohibited discrimination in the military based on gender identity.
Some Republicans said the latest move goes too far.
“President Biden and Secretary McDonough should be less focused on winning the culture wars and more focused on helping the veterans who are suffering from the actual wars,” Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois told Fox News.
“Congress has been waiting for months for them to come to the table and help us deliver care and benefits to toxic-exposed veterans who are sick and dying. We have gotten no response,” said Mr. Bost, the ranking Republican on the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on health. “Yet, somehow they found time to decide that taxpayers should pay for gender transition surgeries at VA medical facilities.”
It’s unclear exactly how much money the VA could potentially spend on gender-transition surgeries.