The Transgender American Veterans Association filed a federal lawsuit this week demanding that the Department of Veterans Affairs foot the bill for their sex-change surgeries.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, follows a letter sent out by the TAVA on last November’s ‘Transgender Day of Remembrance’ demanding that the VA start paying for the surgeries or face legal action.
“Three years ago today, President Biden repealed the military’s ban on transgender service members. Yet, when we return from service, we do not receive the same level of healthcare from the VA that other veterans do,” said Rebekka Eshler, TAVA president, in a media release.
“The natural step toward transgender people’s true inclusion in the military is for the VA to remedy this gap. Transgender veterans have waited far too long for the VA to provide the gender-affirming surgery so many of us need to survive.”
Also quoted in the release was Natalie Kastner, a TAVA member who claims to be at greater risk without access to surgery than when active in the military.
“VA’s failure to provide gender-confirmation surgery has been more dangerous for me than my time in the service,” Kastner explained.
“Without VA coverage for this surgery, I was financially out of options. I tried to perform my own gender-affirming surgery at home, without any medical training,” Kastner said.
“Were it not for the emergency room care, I would have lost my life. I was told that the VA would take care of me because I was willing to risk my life for this country. Instead, I was safer in the service than I am now.”
The VA currently provides coverage for almost all transition-related treatments for veterans apart from surgical procedures, including hormones, fertility treatments and hair removal.
Those seeking such treatments must either rely on private health insurance or bear the cost themselves. However, surgical procedures are covered for active duty service members.
The legal action argues that the VA’s nearly eight-year delay in responding to their petition, which was first filed back in 2016, constitutes a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act requiring agencies to make timely decisions on matters brought before them.
Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, Denis McDonough, has previously pledged to offer such surgery to any of the 163,000 transgender veterans who want it.
“We are taking the first necessary steps to expand VA’s care to include gender confirmation surgery — thereby allowing transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA at their side,” McDonough said in 2021, according to CNN.
“It’s the President’s decision, and we’ve just announced today that we’re executing that decision. That decision will carry out now over many, many months, but at the end of the day this is in the President’s authority to do,” he continued.
“He’s made clear it’s time to do it and that’s precisely what we’ll do.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.