WASHINGTON — At least five transgender troops have sought waivers for treatment outside the military health care system since the Pentagon repealed its ban on their service.
One of the five is seeking sex-change surgery, and the other four are seeking hormone treatment as well counseling, according to a Defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to speak publicly about the medical issues.
Three of the troops are either sailors or Marines, and the other two are airmen, the official said. There are no soldiers seeking care outside the military health care system for gender dysphoria. Transgender is a term used for people who identify with the opposite gender to which they were born.
On Tuesday, one soldier, Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the convicted national security leaker, received assurances that she would be allowed to have surgery to complete her transition to a woman. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence in the Army’s prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.
The practices of discharging troops for gender dysphoria ended on June 30 when Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced its repeal. By Oct. 1, the Pentagon’s health care system will be required to provide “all medically necessary care related to gender transition.” If a military base’s medical facility lacks the expertise in treating transgender service members, those troops can seek a waiver to find an outside health care provider.
The policy’s reversal is scheduled to be complete July 1, 2017, when the military begins accepting transgender recruits who meet military standards.
Manning ended a hunger strike on Tuesday after she was told that she would be approved for a sex-change operation, according to her lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union. Manning has pushed the military for treatment of gender dysphoria and won an earlier fight to receive hormone treatment.
Military doctors must diagnose gender dysphoria and approve sex-change surgery as the proper treatment.
The Rand Corp., which conducted a study for the Pentagon, estimates that there are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender active-duty troops. Rand conducted a study of transgender troops, which found that between 29 and 129 troops would seek medical treatment, including hormones or surgery, in any year.
Evidence from allowing gay and lesbian troops to serve openly in the U.S. military, and allied militaries that have transgender troops, showed no significant impact on unit readiness and cohesion, according to Rand.
The cost of treating transgender troops is estimated from $2.4 million to $8.4 million per year. Treating per individual could cost as much as $50,000 per year.