Ex-Joint Chiefs chairman tells Congress to allow medical care for transgender troops

Ex-Joint Chiefs chairman tells Congress to allow medical care for transgender troops
© Getty

A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is calling on Congress not to legislate on what medical care transgender troops can receive. 

“Congressional oversight of the military is vital, but we must not confuse oversight with micromanagement of personnel policy,” retired Adm. Mike Mullen said in a statement Tuesday reported by USA Today.

“It would be unprecedented for lawmakers to place themselves between loyal service members and their doctors or commanders.”

Mullen, who was the highest-ranking military officer in the country from 2007 to 2011, was speaking out as some Republicans attempt to revive an effort to ban the Pentagon from funding gender reassignment surgeries for troops.


Right now, Pentagon policy allows transgender troops to receive any treatment deemed by their doctors to be medically necessary, including gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy.

An amendment to the House version of the annual defense policy would have put an end to that by prohibiting funding for all transition-related treatment besides mental healthcare.

But the amendment was voted down 209-214, with 24 Republicans joining with Democrats to defeat it.

Republicans have filed several similar amendments to the "minibus" appropriations bill coming to the House floor this week that folds in defense spending. But it’s unclear whether any of those amendments will be advanced by the House Rules Committee and get a vote on the House floor.

In his statement Tuesday, Mullen drew on his experience overseeing the military while "don’t ask, don’t tell" was still in place. In 2010, Mullen came out in support of repealing the law that banned gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military, helping propel the repeal efforts.

“I led our armed forces under the flawed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and saw firsthand the harm to readiness and morale when we fail to treat all service members according to the same standards,” he said in his statement. “Thousands of transgender Americans are currently serving in uniform and there is no reason to single out these brave men and women and deny them the medical care that they require.”

Mullen also referenced the 2016 RAND Corp. study that found all medical costs for transgender service members would be between about $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually and that allowing open service would have “a minimal impact on readiness.”

“The military conducted a thorough research process on this issue and concluded that inclusive policy for transgender troops promotes readiness,” he said. “I urge the Congress to respect the military’s judgment and not to breach the faith of service members who defend our freedoms.”

Updated at 4:12 p.m.