Pentagon Considers Offering Leaves of Absence to Transgender Troops Undergoing Surgery

Ashton Carter
Ashton Carter / AP
August 26, 2015

The Pentagon is preparing to end the ban on transgender troops in the military by May 27 of next year, according to a memo sent to top military personnel and medical officials last week.

The Aug. 19 document, which maps out a timeline of the end to the policy, also indicates that the military is considering implementing a pilot program that would grant leaves of absence to transgender soldiers undergoing surgery or treatment with hormones.

USA Today reported:

Pentagon officials will consider a pilot program that would allow transgender troops under medical treatment to take a sabbatical from service, returning to the ranks after they have made their transition to the other gender. They must also decide whether transgender troops being treated are eligible for deployment to war zones, the memo says.

The document comes a month after Defense Secretary Ash Carter directed officials to review the costs of lifting the ban and the effects it could have on military readiness with the assumption they will be permitted to openly serve unless "objective, practical impediments are identified," according to the memo.

The document points to possible challenges of ending the policy, including medical treatment, housing, uniforms and physical fitness requirements. It also suggests that the Pentagon may reevaluate the discharge status of transgender service members already kicked out of the military because of the ban.

An anonymous official at the Defense Department said that top officials in the Army and Air Force are certain of about 20 transgender troops in each service. A study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that it would cost the military $5.6 million annually to treat transgender soldiers.

Last week, the Obama administration hired its first openly transgender staffer. The White House also opened a gender-neutral bathroom for staff and visitors in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in recent months.