• Transgender veterans may get taxpayer help for reassignment surgeries

    By: Justin Gray , Cox Media Group Washington News Bureau

    WASHINGTON - Taxpayers could soon be paying for gender reassignment surgeries for veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs proposed a rule change that would lift a ban on the procedures, and allow gender alteration surgeries. 
    "Increased understanding of both gender dysphoria and surgical techniques in this area has improved significantly and is now widely accepted as medically necessary treatment," said VA spokeswoman Ndidi Mojay.
    Evan Young is an Army veteran who served more than 20 years in uniform. He is also transgender.
    "We are patriotic Americans and we served our country," Young said. "We just want to be taken care of just like any other veteran."
    But the proposed change comes as the VA continues to deal with controversies surrounding long wait times for doctor appointments and surgeries.
    Critics believe this is not the time for the VA to start paying for gender reassignment surgeries.
    "This is not a political issue, this is a financial issue," said David Williams, a taxpayer watchdog with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. "We have people coming back from wars that have traumatic injuries that need to be dealt with. They're waiting in a line up to three to four months. That's what needs to be addressed right now, not whether or not elective surgeries will be covered."
    Young and other transgender advocates don't consider the surgery elective. A growing number of private insurers cover the surgery, but many still do not.
    "It's a medical need," Young said. "These surgeries save lives and I personally know a few people who have taken their lives."
    The Office of Management and Budget is reviewing the rule, and that will be followed by a public comment period. It could take nearly two years before the rule change takes effect.

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