Last week the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) issued a new nondiscrimination directive on health care for trans and intersex veterans under the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care program.
The directive, which is available online, specifically states that VHA staff must provide transgender patients with care “without discrimination in a manner consistent with care and management of all Veteran patients.”
The directive, per existing laws, explicitly notes that sex reassignment surgery, which is deemed a “cosmetic” surgery, cannot be provided or carried out by the VHA. However, the directive says that other necessary health care requirements should be met, including mammograms and other transition-related items such as hormone treatments and psychological support.
However, the National Centre for Transgender Equality (NTCE) specifically notes in its overview on the guidelines that while sex reassignment surgery is not offered, procedures for treating intersex conditions are not prohibited where surgery is needed to “correct inborn conditions related to reproductive or sexual anatomy or to correct a functional defect.” The overview goes on to say: “VHA is able to allow intersex treatments because the regulation barring sex reassignment surgery does not have any application to intersex conditions, and VHA is aware of the difference between transgender and intersex veterans.”
The new guidelines also reaffirm that information concerning transgender identity and medical care is subject to confidentiality.
Trans groups have praised the VHA’s new directive, hailing it as a small first step that will help in the progression toward equal and consistent care for trans and intersex veterans.
From the NCTE:
“Far too often, veterans are denied the benefits we have earned when we face discrimination at our local VA health facility,” noted Stephanie White, NCTE’s Managing Director and a veteran. She also said, “this Directive addresses that head on. All veterans deserve to be treated equally.”
Mara Keisling, NCTE’s Executive Director, also had this to say about the new Directive: “This Directive from the Obama administration is a great first step. We will continue advocating for the fair and equal treatment of transgender veterans until all restrictions on medically necessary care are lifted and transgender vets are treated as equally and as well as they deserve.”
To read the full NCTE guide to the new directive please click here for links and more information.