The Pentagon said that the director of the Defense Health Agency approved a waiver allowing the operation to be performed in a hospital.
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
An active service has undergone gender reassignment surgery, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Ministry of defence spokesperson Dana White said in a statement that the military health coverage paid for the surgery, because the doctor who performed the operation is deemed medically necessary.
“Hospitals do not have the surgical expertise to perform this type of surgery, so it was performed in a private hospital,” said White, who added that, because the service member “had already begun a sex-assignment course of treatment … an exemption was approved by the director of the Defense Health Agency.”
Army Maj. Dave Eastburn said that waivers are needed and are routinely approved for medical procedures that military facilities do not have the expertise to perform.
The surgery was first reported by NBC News.
The Obama administration last year put an end to the longstanding ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. But President Donald Trump tweeted in July that the federal government “will not accept or allow transgender troops to serve “in any capacity” in the army. He was followed a month later with a formal order telling the Pentagon to extend the ban. He gave the ministry six months to determine what to do about those currently serving.
Trump also directed Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to halt the use of federal money to pay for sexual reassignment surgeries and medications, except in those cases where it is deemed necessary for the protection of the health of a person who has already begun the transition.
In September, Mattis sent a memo making clear that transgender service members can continue to appeal, as the Pentagon struggles to implement Trump’s ban. A high-level panel is the study of the problem, and Trump’s order was quickly condemned by the most important members of Congress and challenged in court.
A federal judge last month blocked the Trump administration to proceed with the plan.
Because the ban on transgender service members was only removed last year, sex change operations have so far been relatively rare.
The Pentagon has no additional details on Tuesday, a surgery, due to privacy restrictions.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.