WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump announced Wednesday via Twitter that Transgender people will not be permitted to serve in the U.S. military in any capacity due to “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”
It is still unclear as to how the policy will be implemented, and whether or not currently serving transgender troops will be discharged immediately. (Update: The military’s policy permitting transgender individuals to serve remains in place, the New York Times reported Thursday.)
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the White House will be working with the Pentagon on implementation, as reported by The Associated Press.
Trump’s claim that transgender medical costs are a burden too heavy for the military to bear has been called into question by several opponents of the policy.
Opponents have frequently cited a study conducted by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit organization that conducts research into the United States Armed Forces. The 2016 study investigated the implications of openly transgender troops.
RAND estimated that there are about 1,300 to 5,500 transgender service members on active duty, as well as about 1,500 on reserve. Based on these numbers and private health insurance data, RAND found that treatment for transgender troops would increase costs by $2.4 million to $8.4 million per year.
This increase amounts to about 0.01 percent of the military’s healthcare budget.
Another study published in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine found the cost of transition-related care for the estimated 12,800 transgender people serving in the military to be about $5.6 million.
To put these numbers in perspective, the House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would raise defense spending to $696 billion in fiscal year 2018, as reported by NBC News.
The RAND study also states that not all transgender individuals will choose to pursue a medical transition.
Trump cited disruption as a second reason for banning transgender people from serving in the armed forces. While it is unclear what exactly Trump meant by “disruption,” the RAND study found that only 0.1 percent of the military force would seek “transition-related treatment” that would affect deployment.
To contrast, in 2015, 14 percent of active forces were considered ineligible for deployment based on legal, medical, or administrative reasons.
Additionally, the president of the American Psychological Association, Antonio E. Puente, said that there is no scientific evidence that transgender people serving in the military has “had an adverse impact on our military readiness or unit cohesion,” as reported by Cleveland.com.
Some supporters of Trump’s decision claim that the cost would be much higher than the RAND estimates suggest.
Michigan Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler cited other studies that estimate the cost of providing transgender surgeries would be more than $3 billion over 10 years.
NBC News reported that they attempted to contact Hartzler’s office to identify what “other studies” she was referring to, but did not receive a response. NBC News stated that one of the studies could be from the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, claimed that costs to the military would also be in the form of “hours of transgender ‘sensitivity’ classes and politically-correct distractions,” according to Cleveland.com.
While the policy has received political support from some figures like Hartzler, Trump is also facing opposition from both sides of the aisle.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain released a statement saying that transgender troops who meet “current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving,” according to Cleveland.com.
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is planning to introduce legislation to overturn the policy, saying that it is harmful and misguided.
“It weakens — not strengthens — our military,” Gillibrand said to Cleveland.com. “I’ll do everything in my power to fight it.”
How Much Does Transgender Medical Treatment Actually Cost?
As Trump’s new policy, as well as its opposition, focuses on the costs of medical treatment for transgender people, many Americans are probably wondering what the monetary costs actually are.
To shed some light on the issue, the following infographics provide hard facts and numbers on the expenses associated with individual transition surgeries.
The figures were taken from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, as well as several other reputable sources.
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