New Report: Open Trans Military Service “Administratively Feasible”

August 26, 2014

Our colleagues at the Palm Center at San Francisco State University this week issued a new report finding that allowing open military service for transgender people “is administratively feasible and neither excessively complex nor burdensome.” The study, “Report of the Planning Commission on Transgender Military Service,” comes from a commission of experts including three retired Generals and serves as a road map for the U.S. Department of Defense to review their regulations that disallow open transgender military service.

The report comes three months after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is open to reviewing the regulations that bar transgender people from serving openly, and ahead of the three year anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

National Center for Transgender Equality commends the findings of this report and calls on the Defense Department to initiate the review. NCTE is confident that open transgender military service is inevitable and we will continue to work until it is achieved.

Read the report here.

Honoring the Service of All Veterans

November 11, 2013

According to a national survey by NCTE and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, fully one in five transgender adults in the United States – or an estimated 140,000 transgender people today – have served in the armed forces. While still not able to do so openly (nearly one in ten transgender veterans reports having been discharged due to their gender identity), transgender people have served in every conflict in our nation’s history, and many continue to today.

In recent years, enormous steps have been taken toward achieving equal access to support and earned benefits for transgender veterans. Undoubtedly the most visible achievement has been the 2011 Veterans Health Administration directive, updated in 2013, calling for respectful and nondiscriminatory services for transgender veterans, and equal access to health care to the greatest extent possible under current regulations. The Veterans Administration has continued in recent years its efforts to increase providers’ cultural competence and clinical knowledge for serving transgender veterans, and NCTE serves as an advisor for an ongoing VHA working group on these efforts, which have included developing training, clinical guidelines, and consultation for providers. This is an area where a very modest effort can lead to significant gains in health care quality by giving targeted attention to previously-neglected barriers.

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Veterans Health Admin. Renews Trans Health Care Directive

February 11, 2013

The Veterans Health Administration has issued a renewed and updated directive on providing health care for transgender veterans and veterans with intersex conditions. VHA originally issued this directive in June 2011, and like other VHA directives it carried a technical expiration date, and was intended to be updated or included in other, permanent VHA policy documents in the future. While the expiration date passed in late 2012, actual VA policy never changed, and the new directive is effective for at least the next five years.

The renewed VHA directive is essentially identical to the 2011 version, but is accompanied by an official FAQ document that provides helpful clarification on patients’ rights to be treated according to their gender identity for purposes of pronouns, restroom access, and room placements, as well as on how to update gender markers in VHA patient records. There is also additional guidance for VHA health care providers who may be treating a transgender or intersex patient for the first time.

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Honoring Trans Veterans

November 11, 2012

On this Veterans’ Day, NCTE salutes the contributions and sacrifices of transgender veterans. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 1 in 5 transgender adults has served in the armed forces. These brave Americans have served in silence, and often been denied the benefits they worked so hard and risked so much to earn.

In recent years, we have begun to make progress. In 2011 the Veterans Administration issued a directive calling for respectful and appropriate treatment for transgender veterans seeking health care. NCTE has continued to work with the VA to implement that directive across the country, from providing guidance to VA medical staff to updating patient records to reflect a person’s gender identity. And with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” we have finally begun a much-needed conversation about open military service for transgender people.

There is still much to do. Trans people are still forced to serve in silence, as our non-trans gay, lesbian, and bisexual brothers and sisters thankfully no longer have to do. Trans veterans are still denied their hard-earned health benefits when it comes to medically necessary transition-related surgeries. NCTE will keep working to fulfill our promises to trans servicemembers and veterans.

NCTE’s resource on VA benefits and the VA transgender directive can be found here.

Read the Veterans Health Administration Directive here.

More Work Needed to Honor Transgender Vets

November 11, 2011

As the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) joins the country in reflecting on our veterans, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling reminds us that more must be done in health and housing programs to adequately serve transgender veterans. The VA must cover all transition-related care to recognizer transgender veterans. In a statement released this morning, Keisling says:

This year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made headway in honoring transgender veterans by affirming their medical needs in the VA healthcare system. We celebrated the VA Directive for making clear that transgender patients have the same access and protections in VA health services as all veterans do. But to fully recognize the sacrifices of transgender veterans, the VA must lift the remaining restrictions on covering medically necessary transition-related care.”

The VA Directive released in June of this year made progress in securing equal health access for transgender veterans. The Directive does several things:

  • Indicates that all VA staff are to provide care to transgender patients “without discrimination in a manner consistent with care and management of all Veteran patients;”
  • Clearly states that all personal information about transgender status and medical care is kept confidential;
  • Reiterates that, under existing regulations, sex reassignment surgery cannot be performed or paid for by the VA;
  • Reiterates that all other medically necessary healthcare for transgender veterans is covered, including sex-specific care like mammograms and pap smears, as well as transition- related care such as hormones and mental health services.

While the Directive sets the standard for the respectful treatment of transgender patients for public and private healthcare providers, it does not address the existing medical regulations that bar medically necessary transition-related care. Keisling says, “These are hard earned and well-deserved benefits. While NCTE will continue to advocate the VA for these changes, the VA can do the right thing now: honor transgender veterans by covering transition related care.”

Download NCTE’s guide to the Directive here.

Policy Brief: Transgender Veterans

June 28, 2011

Transgender veterans who rely on veteran services can be among our most vulnerable community members.  NCTE’s federal policy agenda has specific areas of advocacy for transgender veterans: access to healthcare through the Veterans Administration and ability to update records and documentation of military service.

From the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which NCTE conducted in partnership with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, we learned that transgender people seem to be disproportionately represented among the ranks of American veterans.  Twenty percent of our sample indicated that they had served—almost twice the level of service among the general American adult population.  And 20 percent of the transgender veterans in the sample used the VA system as their primary healthcare provider. In terms of discharge papers, only 35 percent of the veterans in our sample have been able to acquire amended discharge papers (DD-215).

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NCTE Celebrates Transgender Veterans

June 28, 2011

Wednesday January 22nd, 2011 marked a historic day for many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) military community. The Department of Veterans Affairs welcomed home LGBT veteran’s with an event. Top leaders from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense spoke about their personal experiences as LGBT military veterans and on federal policies facing LGBT servicemembers. NCTE joined our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Servicemembers United, and Outserve at the event.

The pending certification of “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal was a hot button topic among the speakers. Douglas Wilson, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Defense Department and firstly openly gay assistant secretary at the Pentagon, thanked gay servicemembers and highlighted the value of serving as a “whole, integrated person.”

Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, reminded everyone that transgender people will still not be permitted to serve. For the military, being transgender is a physical and mental health disqualification for service. Transgender people have served and are serving in the military “honorably and well,” she said. More are starting to serve openly despite the fact that the ban is in place and that the policies holding back transgender people from enlistment and open service are just as “onerous and unjust” as “don’t ask, don’t tell” is.

It was not all doom and gloom in regards to transgender military service. Keisling praised the VA for its recently released healthcare directive. The directive allows transgender veterans to receive fair and equal treatment at all VA facilities, update their gender marker on VA documents without a specific diagnosis or medical treatment (i.e., surgery or hormones), and covers hormones, mental health services, pre-operative and post-operative care. NCTE thanked the VA for their hard work in support of LGBT veterans.

Read NCTE’s Policy Brief on Transgender Care in VA Facilities here.

Watch video of Mara’s remarks below.


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