Maine family sues US military for denying health coverage to transgender dependents

A Maine veteran and his 21-year-old daughter are challenging a 46-year-old federal law that prevents the military health system from covering medically necessary surgical treatment for gender dysphoria sought by dependents of service members.

The family, represented by GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), filed a complaint in US District Court in Portland on Monday against Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the US Department of Defense and TRICARE Health Plans, which operates the military health system for active duty. does. , Reserve and retired personnel.

The father, identified in the lawsuit as John Doe, is a 23-year veteran of the Air Force and Marine Corps who receives health coverage through the military system. His daughter, identified as Jane Doe, is a transgender woman who is a college student and is on her health plan. Both live in Sagadahoek County.

Per doctors’ recommendation, Jane Doe began treatment for gender dysphoria as a young adult. But while TRICARE covered her hormone replacement therapy, it didn’t cover the surgical care she needed, the lawsuit says.

“I just want what other people serving their country want – the ability to take care of my family,” the father said in a statement. “My family has served me right. My wife and I want our daughter to be healthy and happy, just like any parent. My daughter should not be denied health care just because she is transgender.

A father and daughter are challenging a 1976 law that excludes coverage for medically necessary care for transgender dependents. They say that Section 1079 of the US Military Medical Code violates their constitutional rights to equal protection and due process as well as the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination in federal programs.

“Those who have sacrificed to serve our country should not be denied the ability to care for their families,” said GLAAD attorney Ben Klein. “The US military is taking steps to ensure that transgender service members are treated fairly and with the respect they deserve. There is no justification for Tricare to deny coverage to loved ones of service members simply because they are transgender.

Klein declined requests to speak to father and daughter.

The lawsuit states that healthcare experts and professional health organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, recognize gender-affirmation surgery as a safe, effective and medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria.

The lawsuit also claims that gender-affirming surgical procedures are the only medically necessary treatments that the government covers for active-duty military members but denies them for their dependents.

Rape. Chelly Pingree, D-1st District, said Monday that she has not yet reviewed the details of the lawsuit, but she urged Tricare to update its coverage rules.

“Anyone who has served our country in uniform deserves the full benefits they earned, including their loved ones,” Pingree said in a statement. “If another condition required treatment or surgery, there would be no such discriminatory denial of care. Tricare, like all insurers, must update its coverage to reflect the needs of modern times.

Sen. Angus King’s office said The Independent was reviewing the details of the newly filed lawsuit. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-2nd District, did not respond to requests for an interview.

The Defense Department referred a reporter’s investigation to the Justice Department, which did not respond to a request Monday to discuss the trial.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, gender dysphoria refers to the psychological distress that individuals may experience if the sex they were assigned at birth conflicted with their gender identity.

Diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria

Assigned male at birth, Jane Doe knew she was female at age 12 and was diagnosed with gender dysphoria at age 17, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit states, “Like most young people whose gender identity is inconsistent with their assigned sex, Jane struggled with the mental and physical effects of dysphoria, including intense anxiety, racing thoughts, a rapid heartbeat, and social isolation.” were involved.”

Jane Doe has socially transitioned to female by using female pronouns, dressing herself as a woman, and legally changing her name and gender designation on her birth certificate. The lawsuit states that she progressed her transition with hormone replacement therapy and counseling, which is covered by Tricare.

But when she sought coverage for physician-recommended facial hair removal, Tricare denied that it was medically necessary. The complaint says he paid for the procedure but doesn’t say how much.

The lawsuit states that Tricare refused to reimburse her for facial- and voice-feminization surgery, and denied coverage for a vaginoplasty scheduled to create female genitalia.

“Jane has been and continues to be unable to obtain coverage as a Tricare beneficiary for this necessary gender transition surgery,” the lawsuit states. “As a result, Jane is facing the effects of the serious but highly treatable condition of gender dysphoria.”

The lawsuit asks the court to require Tricare to cover Jane Doe’s medically necessary gender-affirmation surgery and damages to be determined in the lawsuit.

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