VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced Saturday that the department has taken the first step, in what is expected to be a years-long process, toward providing gender transition surgeries covered by the veteran healthcare network.
“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives,” McDonough announced during a Pride event in Orlando.
But while the VA secretary said this is being done to make the department “more welcoming” to all veterans, the move has frustrated GOP lawmakers.
“President Biden and Secretary McDonough should be less focused on winning the culture wars and more focused on helping the veterans who are suffering from the actual wars,” Ranking Member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Rep. Mike Bost, told Fox News.
“Congress has been waiting for months for them to come to the table and help us deliver care and benefits to toxic-exposed veterans who are sick and dying. We have gotten no response,” the veteran continued. “Yet, somehow they found time to decide that taxpayers should pay for gender transition surgeries at VA medical facilities.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality estimates there are more than 134,000 transgender veterans in America today, along with another 15,000 transgender individuals serving in the ranks.
Though McDonough said changing the VA’s health regulations will “take time,” roughly 4,000 veterans nationwide are estimated to be interested in the gender transitioning procedure, reported the Military Times.
It remains unclear what the surgery costs could look like for the VA, but Montana Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale has objected to using funds provided to the VA through taxpayer dollars.
“Advocating for taxpayer-funded gender transition surgeries is an absolute disgrace,” Rosendale said in a statement to Fox News. “This is yet another radical policy proposal by an administration with no concern for the reality of its harmful effects on those suffering from mental illness who have sacrificed for our country.”
Saturday’s announcement shows a drastic shift from the Trump administration that banned transgender participation in the military and limited surgery options for those already in the armed forces.
Biden reversed the transgender military ban days after entering the White House.