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VA treats 2,500 transgender veterans

May. 27, 2014 - 09:06AM   |  
In this undated file photo provided by the Army, Pfc. Chelsea Manning poses for a photo wearing a wig and lipstick.
In this undated file photo provided by the Army, Pfc. Chelsea Manning poses for a photo wearing a wig and lipstick. (Army via AP)
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WASHINGTON — Pvt. Chelsea Manning, an inmate at the Army's prison at Fort Leavenworth, may have more luck receiving treatment after serving her sentence and being drummed out of the Army.

That's because the Veterans Health Administration treats veterans with gender dysphoria, offering them counseling and hormone therapy. The Army does not. And Manning, who enlisted as a man known as Bradley but who now identifies as a woman, will remain a soldier as long as she serves her sentence in a military prison.

In 2013, the Veterans Affairs department treated 2,567 veterans with the diagnosis of gender dysphoria with transgender-specific care, according to Ndidi Mojay, a VA spokeswoman. The department does not have a cost estimate for the treatment, which can include male or female hormones depending on gender.

"Few transgender individuals pursue a goal of transformation to the other gender that also includes the complete set of sex reassignment surgeries," Mojay said in an email. "The VA does not pay for or support sex reassignment surgeries."

The VA has supported counseling, cross-sex hormone therapy, evaluations for sex reassignment surgeries performed outside the department and post-reassignment surgical care since 2011, Mojay said.

The Pentagon is looking to transfer Manning to a civilian prison. Transgender therapy is offered to those inmates. Manning, however, insists through her lawyers that she wants to stay in Army custody and receive care there.

Before that happens, the military would likely need to reverse its policy barring transgender troops from serving. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel indicated that he is open to reviewing the rule.

In any event, Manning won't be leaving prison anytime soon. She is serving a 35-year sentence for springing one of the biggest leaks of classified government information in history. Manning provided the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks with a trove of classified military and diplomatic reports and cables.

Through her lawyers, Manning said in a statement that life behind bars at Leavenworth is tolerable. She fills her days working, reading and exercising.

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