Pentagon Lifts Ban on Transgender Military Service, Could Pay for Gender Reassignment Surgeries

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Transgender individuals are now allowed to serve openly in the United States armed forces under a new policy announced by the Pentagon that would require the U.S. government to cover “medically necessary” medical care associated with gender transition.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced Thursday that the longstanding ban against transgender military service has been lifted, “effective immediately.”

“This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force,” Carter said in a prepared statement. “We’re talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve. We can’t allow barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission.”

Carter explained that the department’s new rules will be phased in by the military branches over the course of the next year. By October, the Department of Defense will distribute a training handbook, protocol and guidance for changing a service member’s gender of record in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment System.

“At one year, the services will begin allowing transgender individuals to join the armed forces, assuming they meet accession standards,” the Department of Defense statement reads. “In addition, an otherwise-qualified individual’s gender identity will not be considered a bar to admission to a military service academy, or participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or any other accession program if the individual meets the new criteria.”

The statement explains that the government plans to “take care” of whatever medical care is necessary for transgendered troops. The statement adds that the Pentagon will create “a construct by which service members may transition gender while serving, sets standards for medical care and outlines responsibilities for military services and commanders to develop and implement guidance, training and specific policies in the near and long-term.”

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