The Pentagon said on Tuesday it had paid for gender-reassignment surgery of an active-duty service member that took place earlier in the day, as the issue of transgender troops serving in the US military continues to garner national attention.
The infantry soldier, who is a transgender woman - and who received the Combat Infantry Badge in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2003 - was scheduled for surgery Tuesday, the outlet reported.
Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, head of the Defense Health Agency, which provides medical care to active-duty personnel, approved the waiver request for the surgery Monday, according to a Defense Department document. "Military hospitals do not have the surgical expertise to perform this type of surgery, therefore it was conducted in a private hospital", Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said in a statement to BuzzFeed News Tuesday. "The Supplemental Health Care Program will cover this surgery in accordance with the Department's interim guidance on transgender Service members".
The waiver comes despite President Donald Trump's attempts to ban transgender soldiers from the military.
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In September, Mattis sent out a memo making clear that transgender service members can continue to enlist, as the Pentagon grapples with how to implement Trump's ban. Two organizations filed lawsuits challenging the move, and a federal judge blocked both bans last month.
Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter cited a study by the RAND Corporation saying there were about 2,500 transgender active-duty service members and 1,500 reserve transgender service members.
Because the ban on transgender service members was only removed past year, gender reassignment surgeries have so far been relatively rare. It is taking place at a civilian facility, not a military hospital.
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