V.A. Plans to Offer Gender-Affirming Surgeries for Transgender Veterans


WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs plans to offer gender confirmation surgery to transgender veterans, Denis McDonough, the secretary of veterans affairs, announced over the weekend at a Pride event in Orlando, Fla., in a major shift in available care for former service members.

“This process will require changing V.A.’s regulations and establishing policy that will ensure the equitable treatment and safety of transgender veterans,” Mr. McDonough said on Saturday at the event, noting that the change would take time. But he said the surgical needs of transgender veterans had been “deserved for a long time.”

Gender-affirming procedures reconstruct sexual organs to match the gender with which an individual identifies and have proved to mitigate serious health concerns like substance abuse, suicide and suicidal ideation, an administration official said, explaining the decision to change the policy. The procedures, which were once considered to be akin to cosmetic surgery, are now widely seen as effective treatment for such issues.

The process for changing health care benefits for transgender veterans could take years, and it is not known how many veterans would seek gender confirmation surgeries. The administration official said internal estimates showed that fewer than 4,000 veterans would be interested in the care.

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