In a first, the Pentagon will pay for an active-duty soldier’s gender transition surgery.
First reported by NBC News, the infantry soldier, who identifies as a woman, was to undergo the surgery on Tuesday. It would be the first operation of its kind to be approved under a waiver that allows the Pentagon to pay for the procedure.
The soldier, according to NBC, received the Combat Infantryman Badge in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2003.
Citing defense officials, NBC reported that Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, head of the Defense Health Agency, approved the waiver request for the surgery on Monday.
“This afternoon, an active-duty military member received a sex-reassignment surgery. Military hospitals do not have the surgical expertise to perform this type of surgery, therefore it was conducted in a private hospital,” Dana White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, said in a statement Tuesday evening.
The service member had already begun a sex-reassignment course of treatment, White said.
“The treating doctor deemed this surgery medically necessary, [so] a waiver was approved by the director of the Defense Health Agency,” she said. “The Supplemental Health Care Program will cover this surgery in accordance with the department’s interim guidance on transgender service members.”
But more than one-third of servicemembers surveyed also expressed major concerns with the president's comments towards transgender troops.
In July, President Donald Trump tweeted that the military would no longer “accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the military.”
The announcement came about nine months after former President Barack Obama’s administration allowed transgender individuals to serve openly for the first time. His administration also offered medical services for gender dysphoria treatments and gender reassignment surgery.
The guidance will remain in effect until February 2018.
In September, the Pentagon outlined how the department will navigate transgender issues until a decision is finalized on whether those service members will be allowed to continue serving.
The Pentagon will present its new guidance to President Trump on Feb. 21 regarding how to implement his directed transgender ban.