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Doctor offers free surgeries for transgender military service members

One former Navy surgeon is offering free gender reassignment surgeries to some patients following President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

A former Navy surgeon has pledged to waive the cost of gender reassignment surgery for some military personnel members following President Donald Trump’s announced ban on transgender people serving in the armed forces.

“If the commander in chief won’t take care of our veterans, our veterans will,” Dr. Christine McGinn, who is transgender, told CNN’s Michael Smerconish over the weekend. “ I will do surgery for free on the number of people that I have already lined up for surgery.”

The scope of and authority behind Trump’s declared transgender ban, which came last week in a series of tweets, remains unclear. On Thursday, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said there will be no changes to the military’s transgender policy until the Pentagon receives specific directions from the White House.

“There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford wrote in a letter.

In his Twitter announcement, Trump claimed to have made the decision to ban transgender service members “after consultation with my generals and military experts.” He said allowing transgender people into the military saddles the fighting force with “tremendous medical costs” and distracts from “decisive and overwhelming victory.”

McGinn, who performs gender-confirming surgery at her practice in eastern Pennsylvania, called it “obvious discrimination” and compared the issue to civil rights.

“I think that this sounds a lot like when we had people of color who wanted to serve, women, or gays and lesbians who wanted to serve,” the surgeon asserted.

The financial burden of transition-related surgeries is up for debate. According to a frequently cited Rand Corporation study, which was commissioned last year by the Defense Department, the treatments would cost the military between $2.4 million and $8.4 million a year, though that doesn’t account for reservists or retirees because of their “highly limited military health care eligibility.”

The conservative Family Research Council, though, estimates the cost to be much higher. An FRC study determined the cost would be somewhere between $1.9 million and $3.7 billion over the next 10 years, accounting for “both direct medical costs and the cost of potential lost time of deployable service.”

But McGinn isn’t convinced.

“I think it’s being twisted and spun to make it seem like it would be more than it is,” the ex-Navy officer claimed. “I think the cost of getting rid of very well specialized, trained military service people is exponentially larger than just taking care of them.”

McGinn went on to claim that those who have reassignment surgery are only out of commission for a few weeks.

“Most of my patients are back to work in six weeks, sometimes two weeks,” the doctor told Smerconish. “I think that this is getting inflated to make it a little more political.”

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