(WASHINGTON) — An active-duty service member received gender-reassignment surgery in a private hospital and paid for by the military’s health coverage system on Tuesday, the Pentagon said.
“Military hospitals do not have the surgical expertise to perform this type of surgery; therefore, it was conducted in a private hospital,” said Dana White, the Defense Department’s chief spokesperson. “Because this service member had already begun a sex-reassignment course of treatment and the treating doctor deemed this surgery medically necessary, a waiver was approved by the director of the Defense Health Agency.”
Pentagon officials said a waiver is required any time a service member receives a procedure at a civilian hospital instead of a military hospital. Citing the Privacy Act, officials could not confirm if this was the first transgender service member to receive gender reassignment surgery.
The White House guidance issued in the wake of President Trump’s surprise announcement via Twitter that he would reinstate the policy preventing transgender troops from serving openly and ordered the halt of federal funds to pay for sexual reassignment surgeries and medications.
However, exceptions were made for service members who had already begun “sex-reassignment course of treatment”; those treatments would be covered under the Department of Defense’s health care program.
The Pentagon was given until March 2018 to determine what to do about transgender service members who had stepped forward after the Obama administration lifted the ban on transgender service in July 2016.
Last month, a federal court judge largely blocked Trump’s ban, but not the portion of the presidential memo directing that government funds may not be used for sex reassignment procedures.
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