November 21, 2022
A 23-year veteran of the Air Force and Marine Corps and his 21-year-old adult daughter today filed a challenge to a 1976 federal statute that prohibits the Military Health System, administered by an entity within the Department of Defense called TRICARE, from providing coverage for medically necessary surgical treatments for gender dysphoria for dependents of servicemembers. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine.
The plaintiff John Doe receives healthcare coverage for himself and his family through the military health system, just as other current and former servicemembers do. John’s daughter, Jane, is a 21-year-old transgender woman who, as a college student, remains on her father’s health plan.
At the recommendation of her doctors, Jane, who suffers from gender dysphoria, began treatment for gender transition, as a young adult. While TRICARE covers the cost of medications Jane needs, it does not cover essential surgical care.
“I just want what others who have served their country want – the ability to take care of my family,” said John Doe. “My family has served right alongside me. My wife and I want our daughter to be healthy and happy, like any parents would. My daughter shouldn’t be denied the healthcare she needs just because she’s transgender.”
Healthcare experts and professional health organizations including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association recognize gender affirming surgeries as safe, effective and medically necessary treatments for gender dysphoria.
“People who have sacrificed to serve our country should not be denied the ability to care for their families,” said GLAD Attorney Ben Klein. “The U.S. military is taking steps to ensure transgender servicemembers are treated fairly and with the respect they deserve. There is no justification for TRICARE to deny coverage for service members’ loved ones, just because they are transgender.”
“The military has made serious progress in treating transgender service members more fairly,” said GLAD Attorney Jennifer Levi, who also brought a legal challenge that blocked the former ban on military service by transgender Americans. “And now it’s time to end this outdated and archaic denial of healthcare for transgender members of military families.”
“As a former servicemember myself, I know firsthand how many sacrifices military spouses and families make,” said Orrick’s Shane McCammon, who served for over 12 years as an active-duty Air Force JAG and a leading member of the firm’s pro bono effort in this case. “These unsung heroes are entitled to get their medically necessary healthcare, and in this instance needed care free from discrimination. The Supreme Court has already recognized that discrimination against individuals based on their gender identity is unlawful, and the medical community has vastly expanded its understanding of gender dysphoria and transgender health care. It’s time to finally remove this relic from the books and bring the law into the 21st century.”
The plaintiffs are represented by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) attorneys Ben Klein and Jennifer Levi, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP attorneys Shane McCammon, Matthew Moses, Seth Harrington, Brittany Roehrs, and Ethan Dowling. They are challenging the statutory exclusion of coverage for transgender dependents’ medically necessary care as a violation of their constitutional rights to Equal Protection and Due Process, and as a violation of the federal Rehabilitation Act.