by Katie Kausch
In a huge step forward for transgender service members, the first Veteran's Affairs clinic specifically designed to treat transgender veterans opened its doors Thursday (Nov. 12th) in Cleveland, Ohio.
The clinic will provide trans vets with hormones, mental health and social work services, in addition to the basic health care services already available for all veterans (it is unclear whether or not surgical options would be made available). All participating doctors are specifically trained in transgender health issues to provide better care, something the majority of doctors lack. The clinic currently treats around 20 trans patients annually, according to ABC 13.
While this is a great progress, there is still a lot of work to be done in improving conditions both for transgender service members and VA clinics as a whole. Transgender people are still banned from openly serving in the Armed Forces, and even cisgendered veterans face months-long wait times for appointments.
According to the Palm Center, there are currently 15,500 transgender people serving while keeping their identities secret, and an additional 134,000 living transgender veterans. Providing them with the necessary medical services would cost an estimated $5.6 million dollars a year -- chump change considering the current military budget is $598.5 billion.
The ban on transgender people (or, more specifically, people living with body dismorphic disorder) serving openly is expected to come to an end sometime in mid 2016. Their open service would be allowed unless an ongoing study of the issue shows that "objective, practical impediments are identified" that would prevent their full participation. This comes not too long after the 2011 repeal of "Dont Ask, Don't Tell," the de facto policy that banned gay and lesbian people from openly serving.