Reported in Donald Trump bans transgender people from serving in the military

President Trump tweeted: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”

What medical costs would incur by allowing trans people in the military? My understanding would be that the transition a man would make to a woman or vice versa would be covered by their own expenses/insurance as it's a choice of their own accord?

Would the military be obligated to pay for the transition? If not, what medical costs is he on about?

  • 8
    Maybe "obliged" isn't accurate, but the military sometimes does pay for what might otherwise be considered elective surgeries. It usually starts with therapy, and it is decided whether it can be considered a medical necessity due to psychological issues. That's the route I'd see this taking. That being said, the percentage of the population is so small that it would be a minute drop in the ocean compared to the overall military health budget.
    – Geobits
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 13:56
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    The catch is that it's just a flawed argument (transgendered doesn't mean sex reassignment) and there's no validation he even talked to his commanders (plenty of doubt). As such, at best, this is more of a medical question than anything.
    – user1530
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 15:22
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    The consequences (both medical and non-medical) of presidential hypertension can be a pretty expensive.
    – alephzero
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 0:00
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    @Geobits very true. It is calculated that transgender people would only add up to maybe $8M in extra expenses. ...and FYI the military spent $41M on Viagra alone. So my personal opinion is to ban men from the military, imagine the savings!
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 1:57
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    @DrunkCynic - Almost 103,000 prescriptions were for active-duty service members in 2014, at a cost of $7.67 million. More than half the cases were for psychiatric rather than physical causes.. That was a quick Google search. Even saying that's 100% accurate, we're spending $35M+ on retired/families of soldiers to have sex, whereas the (statistically) small amount ofTransgender treatments/medicines are so they can just work day to day actively protecting us and serving our country...
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 4:45

2 Answers 2



If your question is:

Would the military be obliged to pay for the transition?

Then the answer is yes. Prior to Donald Trump's tweets, the US Military had promulgated guidance on how it would support members transitioning. Following a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, the Military member would be supported through medical treatments, to include hormones and the eventual surgeries, and be allowed to practice acting like their intended gender. Once further along in the process, their gender would be administratively changed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, and then they'd be treated per their intended gender in all things, to include uniform requirements, berthing assignments, billeting, etc.

That being true, the question providing amplifying guidance,

If not, what medical costs is he on about?

Does not apply.


Now, if we look to Donald Trumps tweets, specifically the one referencing medical costs, it doesn't stop there:

"....victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you"

The medical costs, while concerning, aren't the strongest issue with members of our all volunteer uniformed service. The other disruptions aren't accounted for, such as: work-hours lost due to disability, additional demands placed those around the billet impacted, and administrative burden. Finally, there is the impact to military readiness.

Additionally, it must be noted that military doctrine isn't written to cover every corner case, and certainly not .1 to .5 percent of the serving population.

Work hours lost

For the duration of the transitioning period, the member is waived from a majority of physical qualification requirements (table 6.1), and also placed on limited duty. If the service member is in a physically demanding job, they can't do their job. If the side effects of the drugs impact the mental readiness of the service member and they carry special certifications or clearance, they may be dis-certified from continuing in that billet.

Is every service member a grunt on the front lines? Obviously not. However; every Marine, by the nature of doctrine, is a rifleman; every underway sailor, is a fireman; I can't tell you what every member of the Air Force/Army is. That is why the services have physical fitness standards. For male-to-female, with the expected loss in muscle mass, there remains a concern that they'll be able to meet the new standards. For female-to-male transitions, while there is a gain muscle mass, will it be enough to meet the new standards? Even further, there is the differences in blood-oxygen absorption rates, bone density and skeletal structure, and other gains influenced by developing as a genetic male. Are there women that can meet and exceed the physical fitness standards? Certainly, but policy isn't written for the outliers, and must not be. Statistical averages, and overall efficiency, are the norm.

However, it isn't like being transgender is the only discovered medical condition that will get people excused from their current billet or the service overall. For comparison, here is a quotation from the MANMED manual on the general items that could disqualify an individual from service in the nuclear field. Taking medication for migraines is enough to lose the ability to serve in a plant.

"Any condition, combination of conditions, or treatment which may impair judgment or alertness, adversely affect reliability, or foster a perception of impairment is disqualifying. Nuclear field personnel returning to duty following an absence of greater than 7 days due to illness or injury, hospitalization for any reason, or after being reported on by a medical board must have a properly documented UMO or RAM evaluation to determine fitness for continued nuclear field duty."

Additional Demand

If unable to execute the demands of their job, that work must be taken up by others. This increases the strain placed upon the affected unit, beyond which is already being experienced by other stressers.

Administrative Burden

There is an extensive administrative burden placed upon the command in supporting a transitioning service member, to include berthing arrangement, paperwork processing, convening medical boards, mitigating the negative impact to the command. There is the other resultant trouble of possible idiots in the command, but that sis an ever present issue anyway.

While being provided hormonal treatment, if male to female, they are losing muscle mass and becoming less effective soldiers. This is detrimental to the intended design of the United States Military, delivering a powerfully lethal fighting force as the ultimate projection of US diplomatic power.

Editorial #:

For clarity, it is not the intention of this answer to defend or advance banning transgender persons from serving in armed services of these United States. If an individual so inclined can meet the requirements for their current gender and the desired billet, they are welcome to risk life and limb for country. With an all volunteer force that averages 1% of the population, more people joining increases the flexibility of the forces. Individuals should be allowed to join prior to, or after, transitioning to their preferred gender; however, the diversion of limited military funding, man hours, and attention while they are in the military is deleterious to the design intention of the force. As negligible as the RAND study claims those impacts to be, they still make the armed forces less efficient overall.

To be heartless, why should the military fund an elective/corrective procedure for military personnel that doesn't directly benefit the military? There is not a valid comparison between transitioning active duty members and the medical care provided to veterans. The military does not fund every medical procedure for every veteran, but to properly evaluate the groups separately: those who left the military prior to retirement, and those who retired from the military or were medically retired from the military due to being found physically unfit for continued service. In the former, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) intentions are to cover service related injuries. Mess up your joints/back in the service, to X percentage of disability, and the VA covers you. In the later, it is seen as an incentive to make a career in the military, to maintain vital human capital, or to directly treat those grievously injured while in service. This is the return on the check you signed upon joining, payable with your body and life.

In truth, the majority of the military doesn't care about race, gender, orientation, etc. Can you do the job? Do you keep me from dying? Then carry on.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 19:49


Yes the military provides health care for soldiers, which covers necessary medical treatment, including treatment for gender dysphoria (also including SRS if necessary).

The costs to the military for this are negligible.

RAND estimated the cost for transition-related care for trans people to be between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually:

The Costs of Gender Transition–Related Health Care Treatment Are Relatively Low

  • Using private health insurance claims data to estimate the cost of extending gender transition–related health care coverage to transgender personnel indicated that active-component health care costs would increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, representing a 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in active-component health care expenditures.
  • Even upper-bound estimates indicate that less than 0.1 percent of the total force would seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy.

A study published by Aaron Belkin in the New England Journal of Medicine finds similar costs:

When it was announced that the U.S. military anticipates lifting its ban on service by transgender persons, critics expressed concern about the cost of providing transition-related care. But the cost will be negligible in the scheme of the military's health care budget.

The study is behind a paywall, but summarized by USA Today:

Treating the military's estimated 12,800 transgender troops with hormone therapy and surgery will cost about $5.6 million a year, a tiny amount compared with overall spending on military health care, according to an article published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine.


The argument is nonsensical, even if the costs were higher.

While transgender doesn't equate sex reassignment, trans people are obviously in a group that may require it (or other related healthcare). Accepting trans people in the military but kicking them out once they require medical treatment is obviously unjust.

But the military accepts all sorts of groups which have a higher risk for specific medical needs. Black people for example are more likely to have diabetes, but that is not a valid reason to exclude them from the military.

  • 20
    Only in USA politics "between $2 and $4 million" is casually referred to as "negligible" :)
    – user4012
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 18:57
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    @user4012 No, that's common when discussing costs at a state-level (not just in the US), because the numbers are so high. If you compare it with the total cost of military health care, it's next to nothing; it could be covered by Trump skipping a couple of his trips to mar-a-lago. And trans people have been allowed in the military for some time now. Of course, it is fair to assume that the numbers may rise, but considering the estimated percentage of trans people in the population, it's still negligible.
    – tim
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 19:09
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    @user4012 the military spends 85 million a year on viagra. Yes, in comparison, 2-4 million is negligible.
    – user1530
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 19:12
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    The last paragraph is a rather silly false equivalence and seems to completely misunderstand risk management. Not just any 'increased' risk is the same. The risk of a black person fit enough to meet military standards developing diabetes is still quite small, while black people represent 13% of the overall population. The risk of a transgender person going through a transition stage that affects their ability to do their job is much higher and they are a very small percentage of the population. Removing a small group for a high risk is not the same as a large group for a small risk.
    – reirab
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 19:35
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    @user4012 : Well, it's pretty small in comparison to the estimates (because the military won't supply actual figures) of what the US military spends on operating golf courses for the brass: mic.com/articles/21194/…
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 5:05

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