Military leaders will meet Monday to discuss a plan that will enable transgender troops to serve openly in the military, a Defense Department official told USA Today on Wednesday. The announcement followed a memo sent by Defense Secretary Ash Carter to military leaders earlier this week outlining his plan that would protect currently serving transgender troops from being discharged and for each service to incorporate them into the ranks.
"The working group will start with the assumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified, and shall present its recommendations to me within 180 days," Carter wrote in his memo.
The Pentagon first announced July 13 that it would officially drop the ban that prevented transgender troops from serving openly, but not until after a review period of six months. Under current guidelines, a person who was discovered to be transgender could be medically discharged from service.
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While that rule would technically remain in place until after the six-month review, it has become very difficult for military chiefs to dismiss any transgender person because that responsibility has been put in the hands of a senior civilian who must give “personal approval” before anything is authorized.
There are a number of vital questions that must be answered during the coming discussions, such as what uniforms transgender troops would wear, where they would live, what standards they would they be held to, and which medical treatments they would receive.
Medical waivers and benefits will likely be one of the key issues when officials discuss the changes in the coming months. For example, will troops be allowed to deploy to a war zone if they are undergoing hormone treatment and would having them there endanger the safety of others? The Pentagon answered part of the hormone question when it allowed convicted Army leaker Chelsea Manning to transition to a woman while serving her prison sentence at the Army’s Fort Leavenworth prison.
The department of Veteran Affairs currently recognizes transgender men and women, and pays for hormone treatment and counseling.