A transgender active-duty service member underwent gender-affirming surgery on Tuesday afternoon. Her surgery, NBC News reported, was paid for by the Department of Defense despite President Trump’s repeated attempts to ban trans people from the military.
Citing a source close to the service member, NBC News also reported that she was an infantry soldier who previously fought in Afghanistan. Her surgery was approved by Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, who leads the Defense Health Agency, on Monday.
The solider’s surgery, the Pentagon confirmed, was conducted in a private hospital. “Because this service member had already begun a sex-reassignment course of treatment, and the treating doctor deemed this surgery medically necessary, a waiver was approved by the director of the Defense Health Agency,” the Pentagon’s statement read. “The Supplemental Health Care Program will cover this surgery in accordance with the Department’s interim guidance on transgender Service members.”
The waiver was approved in spite of Trump’s ban on funding for gender-affirming surgery, which he made official in an August memo after rattling off a few cursory early morning tweets on banning trans service members from the military. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” he wrote.
Trump’s tweets were, of course, nonsense. According to an often cited RAND corporation study, allowing trans people to serve in the military would not only have “minimal impact on readiness” costs would pale in comparison to the Defense Department’s budget. Hormone treatments and surgeries, the study estimated, would cost the Pentagon a maximum of $8.4 million.
Following Trump’s abruptly announced ban, which seemed to surprise the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the military’s current policies would remain unchanged until a panel of experts weighed in on the attempted ban. Current Defense Department polices requires that the military pay for transgender soldiers’ medical services.
Last month, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.