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Transgender veterans file 2nd lawsuit against VA for gender-affirming surgery coverage

By 37ci3 Apr15,2024



An advocacy group for transgender veterans has filed a second lawsuit against the federal government for excluding gender-affirming surgery from veterans’ health benefits.

The lawsuit is the latest update in a years-long effort by the Transgender American Veterans Association, or TAVA, to force the Department of Veterans Affairs to cover gender-affirming surgery — something the association says the VA has promised to provide for years.

In 2016, TAVA filed a petition asking the VA to begin a rulemaking process to amend transgender veterans’ health benefits to include gender-affirming surgery.

The VA covers nearly all transition care for veterans, including hormone therapy, fertility preservation, hair removal, voice education and psychosocial support. But surgery is an exception. If trans veterans want genital or breast surgery, among other surgical procedures, they must pay out-of-pocket or use private insurance. Such operations are intended for active military personnel.

PAN He filed a lawsuit in January To compel VA to respond to the 2016 petition within a reasonable time. The VA responded on February 22 and denied TAVA’s appeal.

In his letter denying TAVA’s petition, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, which recently took effect The PACT Act – a 2022 law expanding health care benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances – requiring the VA to produce and collect new data that could require the department to submit new data on the proposed rule to cover gender will do. approves transactions.

“Because VA is not prepared to rule on the specific regulatory changes proposed in the petition, VA hereby denies the petition for rulemaking,” McDonough wrote in a letter to attorneys at the Transgender Law Center, which represents TAVA. NBC News.

TAVA filed a second lawsuit Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., challenging the VA’s denial, arguing that the denial violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. to unconstitutional discrimination based on gender and transgender status”.

“The VA’s denial of TAVA’s petition for rulemaking after allowing the petition to languish for nearly eight years — and nearly three years of promises to provide the coverage it requested — demonstrates that the agency does not take the needs of transgender veterans seriously, that the care provided to them is inadequate. demonstrates. currently provides, and urgent reforms are needed,” TAVA’s claim states.

The VA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Josie Caballero, TAVA’s acting president, said the initial reaction to the VA’s rejection of TAVA’s rulemaking application was shock and then disappointment, as the VA has promised for years to include gender-affirming care for trans veterans.

For example, in June 2021, McDonough announced that the department was “taking the first necessary steps to expand VA care to include gender confirmation surgery,” which he said would take time. CNN reported on this.

“However, we are moving forward methodically because we want this important policy change to be implemented in a thoroughly reviewed manner to ensure that services provided to veterans meet VA’s rigorous quality health care standards,” McDonough said at the time.

Gender-affirming surgery is medically necessary for many trans people, Caballero said, and as a result, “denying access puts our lives at risk.” He said many of TAVA’s members are tired of the VA running on them.

“We just want the VA to follow through on the promises it made — the promise of health care, the promise to ensure our health so we can live with dignity and fight, put our bodies on the line,” he said. “This is the least this country can give us. And the VA should not be a barrier to providing life-saving health care.

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