In May 2016, the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) submitted a petition to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requesting that they begin a rulemaking process to eliminate the exclusion of gender-affirming surgery from veterans’ health care plans. Although the VA has publicly announced its support for the policy change, it has not yet responded to the request made by TAVA. As a result, TAVA has filed a lawsuit to compel the VA to respond.
The VA covers almost all transition-related health care for veterans except gender-affirming surgeries, which are covered for active-duty service members. Transgender people serve in the military in proportionally higher rates than the general population. An estimated 134,000 veterans and retired National Guard or reservists identified as transgender in 2014.
The brief presents research to demonstrate that further delay will negatively impact the health and wellbeing of transgender veterans. The brief summarizes a long history of discrimination against transgender people by the military, and explains that these experiences take a toll on the wellbeing of transgender servicemembers and veterans. The brief also situates the VA’s failure to provide care in the context of widespread discrimination against transgender people in a variety of areas, including health care, employment, housing, education, government services, lawmaking, and the legal system.