Medical and mental health care for people diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria can be expensive and complex. The transition process requires mental health providers willing to provide the client with a letter to begin medical treatment such as hormone replacement or sex reassignment surgery (SRS). United States veterans have been officially supported in their transitions since 2011, but Veterans Affairs (VA) has been providing care long before then. This was done by a directive date June 1, 2011:
- Indicates that all VA staff are to provide care to transgender patients “without discrimination in a manner consistent with care and management of all veteran patients.”
- Clearly states that all personal information about transgender status and medical care is kept confidential.
- Reiterates that, under existing regulations, sex reassignment surgery cannot be performed or paid for by the VA.
- Reiterates that all other medically necessary health care for transgender veterans is covered, including sex-specific care like mammograms and pap smears, as well as transition-related care such as hormones and mental health services.
On June 2, the VA submitted a proposed rule to change the exclusion of SRS. The new rule has been in process since 2014 after Medicare changed their rules for surgical treatment for Gender Identity Disorder (GID). The change proposes “…to remove a restriction in the VA regulation that prohibits it from providing medical services that are considered gender alterations. In the past, Gender Dysphoria, previously referred to as transsexualism or GID, was a disorder for which transition-related surgeries and procedures were considered treatment, but such surgeries and procedures required further research to assure their safety and reliability… .”
This change could allow many transgender veterans to pursue surgical options that would otherwise be unavailable. With expenses starting near $40,000, veterans who rely on the VA for health care may live on a fixed or limited income due to many factors, but this opens up options.
NOTE: The VA is an HRC Health Equality Index Leader in every state. The VA is also the largest participant in the survey with 114 hospitals nationwide.