Defense Department officials have no specific timeline for when military family members and retirees will be able to receive transgender-related care through Tricare, they said this week.
"We anticipate that this new coverage will be in effect in the near future and will allow ... non-surgical gender transition care and treatment for all Tricare beneficiaries,” said Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson, a DoD spokesman in a statement.
New proposed Tricare transgender treatment rules that allow for hormone therapy and mental health counseling for "gender dysphoria," the clinical name for those who identify as a different gender than the sex they were assigned at birth, were published in the Federal Register in early February and open for public comment until early April.
A ban on openly serving transgender troops was lifted by Defense Department officials June 30, with plans to offer transgender treatment, including sex-change surgery, to active-duty service members within 90 days.
"Bottom line: Service members with a diagnosis from a military medical provider indicating that gender transition is medically necessary will be provided medical care and treatment for the diagnosed medical condition," Sakrisson said.
But that coverage does not include military family members and retirees. They are instead governed by Tricare rules, which currently prohibit transgender assistance.
The proposed Tricare rules would cover everything but surgery, according to officials. To receive that treatment, Tricare users will likely have to pay out of pocket outside of the Tricare system.
Advocates with the American Military Partner Association (AMPA), which supports gay and transgender military families, said the current rules are "outdated."
"We've made tremendous progress for our transgender service members, but it is absolutely imperative that we don't forget about our transgender military kids and spouses," said Ashley Broadway, AMPA's president. "Outdated Tricare policies must be updated so that these military family members have access to the critically important and medically necessary care they so desperately need."
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.