1st transgender former Navy SEAL hopes V.A. reverses decision

13News Now Mike Gooding has the story

NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- Citing costs, the V.A. has decided to halt gender transition surgery for vets.

That move has drawn the attention of the nation's first openly transgender former Navy SEAL.

Former Seal Team 6 member Kristin Beck served 20 years and did seven combat deployments as Chris, earning a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and two Defense Meritorious service medals before transitioning in retirement.

She is not happy to hear the news this week that the Department of Veterans Affairs has dropped plans to start covering gender transition surgery for veterans, citing concerns about costs.

'I'm an American," she said. "I deserve dignity and respect. I deserve to be treated equally. So if that means having surgery, if it means me dressing  a little differently and people don't like it, I'm still an American. I deserve my own personal liberty. That's what I'm going to fight for.'

In a statement Monday, VA officials said they plan on continuing to offer "hormone therapy, mental health care, preoperative evaluation" and other services.

But the department said offering the surgeries will be delayed until "when appropriated funding is available."

The decision comes a month after the Pentagon announced it will provide gender-reassignment surgery to active duty Tricare beneficiaries.

"We need to be hopeful that this can be changed at a later date and we need to work through that," said Beck.

Virginia Third District Representative Bobby Scot weighed in. In a statement to 13 News Now, he said:

"Our veterans have made the ultimate sacrifice by defending our great country. Veterans have earned access to all necessary healthcare provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is my hope that Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs will work together to ensure all veterans receive the best quality healthcare available.”

Beck is coming to Hampton Roads to  be the keynote speaker at the ACCESS AIDS Care and LGBT Center of Hampton Roads Transgender Day of Remembrance, this Sunday at the Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton. Also speaking will be Gloucester County High School Student Gavin Grimm, whose fight over restroom use at school may reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This is a day where we can remember all those who were killed through hatred and violence," said Beck.

The gathering takes place from 2-6 p.m., and is free and open to the public.


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