DoD Just Paid For A Soldier’s Gender-Reassignment Surgery. What Does It Mean For Trump’s Transgender Ban?


The Department of Defense covered the cost of an active-duty Army soldier’s gender-reassignment surgery on Nov. 14 after the operation was approved under a waiver, NBC News reports.

The soldier identifies as a woman, serves in the infantry, and earned her Combat Infantry Badge during Operation Anaconda — a 2002 battle between Taliban fighters and conventional U.S. combat troops in Paktia province, Afghanistan — according to a source close to the service member who spoke with NBC News.

The waiver was approved Nov. 13 by Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, the head of the Defense Health Agency, which handles medical care for active-duty troops.

"Military hospitals do not have the surgical expertise to perform this type of surgery, therefore it was conducted in a private hospital," the Department of Defense said in a Nov. 14 statement, adding that the waiver was approved “because this service member had already begun a sex-reassignment course of treatment, and the treating doctor deemed this surgery medically necessary.”

News of the surgery comes four months after President Trump announced via Twitter his intention to enact a ban on transgender service members; in August, he signed a memo barring the Pentagon from enlisting transgender recruits and halting future funding for gender-reassignment surgery.

Related:  Trump’s Ban On Transgender Troops Is Reckless, Misguided, And, Frankly, Pretty Dumb »

Trump's surprise tweetstorm came just one month after Secretary of Defense James Mattis gave the service chiefs an additional six months to finish reviewing the impact of enlisting transgender service members, saying policy decisions must be weighed against one standard: Whether it impacts the military’s ability to defend the country.

Since the July announcement, the president’s proposed ban has sparked heated debate over whether the the commander in chief even has the constitutional authority to change the American military with the swipe of a smartphone screen (or the scribble of a pen, for that matter), as Task & Purpose’s Adam Weinstein reported earlier this year:

Every good mudfoot knows that the president is vested with the authority of commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces (and “the militia of the several states”) under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. But as the Center for New American Security’s Phillip Carter points out, authority over the actual composition of the military belongs to lawmakers thanks to the stipulation in Article I, Section 8 that Congress has the power to “raise and support armies …. provide and maintain a navy …[and] make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.” Just as the president must seek congressional approval for declaring war and appointing inferior officers, so must lawmakers eventually approve changes to the armed forces.

And more hurdles have followed. Two weeks ago, a federal judge temporarily halted the ban, which was set to go into effect March 2018, ruling that the policy justification was likely unconstitutional and based on “disapproval of transgender people generally,” according to The New York Times.

Even before the Oct. 30 court decision, Trump’s transgender ban was facing opposition from within the military. After the president’s July 25 “policy by tweet” sent transgender service members scrambling for answers regarding their status in the armed forces, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford announced July 27 that, no, the military will not be changing policy based on a tweet.

On Aug. 29, Mattis announced that the DoD would establish a panel to “analyze all pertinent data, quantifiable and non-quantifiable,” related to transgender troops in the military. “In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place,” Mattis said in the statement.

Trump's transgender ban, which cited cost concerns and “disruption” to unit-cohesion as the principal reason for the policy’s implementation, has also faced pushback due to the fact that research doesn’t support those claims.

According to a 2016 study by The RAND Corporation, allowing transgender troops to serve openly in the military would have a “minimal impact on readiness and health care costs” for the Pentagon. The report estimated that health care costs would rise from $2.4 million to $8.4 million, which in the context of the overall defense budget, is an increase from 0.04% to 0.13%, The New York Times notes.

Focusing on the policies of four — out of 18 countries — which allow transgender personnel to serve openly, the study concluded that “in no case did the RAND team find evidence of an effect on operational effectiveness, operational readiness or cohesion.”


Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.

Take $75 off a Casper Mattress and $150 off a Wave Mattress with code TASKANDPURPOSE

And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.

Read More Show Less

Sometimes, even the most well-meaning of tweets can come back to haunt you as a meme.

Read More Show Less
An AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopter lands during a combined arms demonstration as part of South Carolina National Guard Air & Ground Expo 2009 at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., Oct. 10, 2009. (U.S. Army/Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine)

Welcome to Confessions Of, an occaisional series where Task & Purpose's James Clark solicits hilarious, embarrassing, and revealing stories from troops and vets about their job, billet, or a tour overseas. Are you in an interesting assignment and think you might have something to share? Email with your story.

"Nothing is more powerful than a young boy's wish. Except an Apache helicopter. An Apache helicopter has machine guns and missiles. It is an unbelievably impressive complement of weaponry, an absolute death machine."

While this Patrick Stewart quote may be from an R-rated movie about a talking teddy bear, it's remarkably accurate. After all, the old warhorse has been kicking ass since it was first adopted by the U.S. Army in the 1980s. Designed to get into trouble fast and put it down even faster, the AH-64 Apache usually comes bristling with ordnance, from an M230 chain gun firing 30mm rounds to Hellfire missiles and rockets.

In the words of Tyler Merritt "it's basically a fucking flying tank."

Read More Show Less
James Jackson, right, confers with his lawyer during a hearing in criminal court, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in New York. Jackson, a white supremacist, pled guilty Wednesday to killing a black man with a sword as part of a racist plot that prosecutors described as a hate crime. He faces life in prison when he is sentenced on Feb. 13. (Associated Press/Bebeto Matthews)

White supremacist James Jackson – accused of trying to start a race war by killing a homeless black man in Times Square with a sword — pleaded guilty Wednesday to murder as an act of terrorism.

Read More Show Less
A soldier plugs his ears during a live fire mission at Yakima Training Center. Photo: Capt. Leslie Reed/U.S. Army

A Texas veteran is suing the company he says knowingly produced and sold defective earplugs which were issued to the U.S. military, leading him and many others to develop hearing problems, including tinnitus.

Read More Show Less