ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP/WVEC) -- A new Pentagon policy brings some relief to transgender military retirees and children of active-duty service members.
The military's health insurance provider Tricare will now cover transgender-related services that include hormone therapy and supportive counseling.
Starting today, the Pentagon will provide gender-reassignment surgery to active duty Tricare beneficiaries, and behavioral health care and hormone treatments for non active duty patients.
The RAND Corporation, which assisted the Pentagon in studying the issue, estimates there are between 4,000 and 12,000 transgender troops on active duty and in the reserves.
LGBT Center Marketing and Events Manager Andrew Roberts says, it's a good move for those transgender men and and women in uniform who need the treatment.
"The most important thing that's happening today is, people can step out of the shadows and be their authentic self," he said.
Pentagon officials have said they expect to pay between $40,000 to $50,000 during the course of an individual service member's life to treat gender dysphoria.
Rand projects the likely annual total cost to be between $2.4 to $8.4 million.
Army CWO 3 Lindsey Muller is an AH-64 Apache Longbow pilot who is transitioning from a man to a woman.
"The fact that finally Tricare is going to recognize treatment, that's a huge strain and burden off not just me but thousands and thousands of other soldiers out there," she said.
The change follows the decision in June to allow transgender members to serve in the military. Roughly 7 million retirees and children who use the same health insurance will get many of the same benefits.
The policy comes with some controversy. Transgender advocates fault it because it covers gender-reassignment surgery only for active-duty personnel, not retirees or dependents. A conservative group says the benefits are expensive and lack military purpose.
The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty says "This is a gross misuse of military medical dollars."