Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Potential Breakthrough in the Care of Transgender Veterans

Monday's Arizona Daily Star quietly broke the very significant news that a potential breakthrough in the way America cares for our transgender veterans may be underway.

In an article by reporter Carol Ann Alaimo, the Veterans Administration, which is tasked with running the nation's massive healthcare program for those who have served in the armed forces, acknowledged that it is considering a change to the outdated and prejudicial policy that currently bars transgender vets from receiving any assistance for gender reassignment surgery.

"National Department of Veterans Affairs policy — now under review — specifically forbids veterans hospitals to perform or pay for 'transsexual surgery,'" Alaimo notes in her article. "It also does not provide for the related health care that experts recommend, such as psychotherapy, hormone treatment and other measures."

But that, according to at least one person at the VA, may be about to change.

"A spokesman for national VA headquarters, in a recent e-mail to the Arizona Daily Star, said the VA is taking a second look at its policy banning transsexual surgery at veterans hospitals,"
the paper reported.

"VA is in the process of rewriting its directive excluding gender-reassignment surgery and will be conducting a review of the evidence base on this issue," VA spokesman Terry Jemison said.

That is a huge step forward in honoring the service and sacrifice of transgender Americans who have served our country . . . and it is, quite simply, the right thing to do. Treating every veteran equally - and fairly - seems the least our country can do in return for the service they have each given. For too long, transgender veterans have been given second-class treatment, despite the first-class job they performed as members of our fighting forces.

"At some VA hospitals nationwide, staffers have been known to shut the door on transgender veterans, turning them away for even routine medical care unrelated to their gender disorder, a survey last year by the Transgender American Veterans Association found," the Star notes.

"Of the 240 veterans surveyed who were part of the VA system, 10 percent said they had been turned away for service because they were transgender. Nearly one-quarter said they had been mocked or insulted by VA staff members."

Yet, as Jillian Shipherd, a clinical psychologist at VA Boston and a pioneer in improving health care for transgender vets noted, "I think we can all agree that these are veterans, they served our country and they deserve our respect."

"And they deserve quality health care. No exceptions."

To read the full report from The Arizona Daily Star, click here.

1 comment:

sevendaggersofhope said...

I've been waiting for this to happen for a very long time. I've had fear of going to VA to seek assistance and to actually attempt to get diagnosed with gender identity disorder. I'm a transgender military veteran. I hope this does'nt take 10 years to be put to stone. The sooner the better for all of us '-'*