Opinion

GOP lawmakers push back on VA’s plans to offer gender reassignment surgery

A group of GOP lawmakers is pushing back back on a proposed rule change by the Department of Veterans Affairs that would allow it to compensate gender reassignment surgery for military vets. 

In a letter sent to VA Secretary Denis McDonough on Monday, the group — led by Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.)  — said the rule change to provide and cover the surgeries would be “dangerous and irresponsible,” raising concerns about the suicide and depression rates of those who have undergone the procedure. 

McDonough announced the department was taking steps to provide gender-reassignment surgery during a Florida celebration earlier in June, which is Pride Month. 

“We strongly oppose these proposed actions and urge you not to proceed. The mission of the Veteran’s Health Administration is to ‘honor America’s Veterans by providing exceptional health care that improves their health and well-being.’ We believe that providing sex reassignment surgeries is wholly incompatible with this mission,” they wrote. 

“As you noted in your remarks, veterans suffering from Gender Identity Disorder experience suicidal ideation at a rate significantly higher than the general veteran population. We believe that the VA pushing unproven and irreversible sex reassignment surgeries on such a vulnerable population is dangerous and irresponsible.  

“Not only do sex reassignment surgeries not improve outcomes for patients, but what little research we do have shows that these procedures may make the problem even worse. 

“In the Obama Administration’s 2016 ‘Decision Memo for Gender Dysphoria and Gender  Reassignment Surgery’, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid correctly noted  that those that had undergone sex reassignment procedures experienced “increased mortality and  psychiatric hospitalization compared to the matched controls. The mortality was primarily due to  completed suicides.”

McDonough announced in June that the VA will offer trans veterans gender confirmation surgery.
McDonough announced in June that the VA will offer trans veterans gender confirmation surgery.
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The lawmakers went on to state they feel the use of federal funding should be focused on service-related injuries, noting the VA has struggled with delays and obtaining resources to provide quality care to veterans. 

“Moreover, with so many of our nation’s heroes experiencing significant delays in receiving the  medical care they need through the VA, we believe it is disgraceful that instead of working to address problems in the access and delivery of true medical care, the VA is pushing experimental  sex reassignment surgeries on veterans,” the letter said.   

“The VA should not be providing dangerous sex reassignment surgeries and certainly should not  be using taxpayer dollars to do so. American taxpayer dollars should be going towards  improving the health and well-being of our nation’s heroes — not experimenting on them. We strongly urge you to reconsider your announcement that the VA will be taking these actions  and look forward to hearing from you regarding this critical matter.” 

In addition to Rosendale, GOP Reps. Chip Roy (Texas), Tracey Mann (Kansas), Barry Moore (Ala.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.),  Gregory Steube  (Fla.), Brian Mast (Fla.), Mark Green (Tenn.), Brian Mast (Fla.), Byron Donald (Fla.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Ron Estes (Kansas), Bob Good  (Va.), Kevin Hern (Okla.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Jake LaTurner (Kansas), Matt Gaetz  (Fla.), Warren Davidson (Ohio),  Doug LaMalfa (Calif.), Mary Miller (Ill.), Brian Babin (Texas), Barry Loudermilk (Ga.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Ted Budd (N.C.), Jerry Carl (Ala.), Pay  Fallon (Texas), Mo Brooks (Ala.) , Dusty Johnson (S.D.), Diana Harshbarger (Tenn.), Beth Van Duyne (Texas),  Jody Hice (Ga.), Bob Gibbs (Ohio),  Bill Posey (Fla.), Andy Harris (Md.),. Ronny  Jackson (Texas), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jeff Duncan (S.C.), Alex Mooney (W.V.),  Michael Cloud (Texas), Robert Aderholt (Ala.) and  Vicky Hartzler (Mo.) also signed onto the letter. 

The VA has been paying for prescription hormone therapy and mental health treatment for transgender veterans since 2013, a change made under the Obama administration. But the department has not covered the surgical procedure. 

Proponents of the potential rule change have lauded the move as a critical step in advancing LGBTQ rights, but critics have voiced they feel it is an attempt by the administration to use federal dollars to promote its social agenda. 

“Fighting for veterans’ healthcare has been one of my top priorities in Congress. As a physician, I want to see the men and women who have served our country given the support they deserve. With so many of our veterans experiencing delays in true medical care, the last thing the VA should be doing is spending tax dollars on cosmetic procedures and pushing sex reassignment surgeries on our veterans,” Green said in a statement. 

Donalds echoed Green’s sentiments, stating he feels taxpayer dollars would be used to promote “progressive social movements.”

“The Department of Veterans Affairs has a noble vision of providing top-notch health care for our veterans and their families, opening doors for our returning heroes, and walking them through life after dutifully serving our nation,” he said.

“The VA should not be in the business of funding sex reassignment surgery with taxpayer money. Any plans to do so are putting progressive social movements over the longstanding mission of the VA.”


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