A switch in Army procedure means that it will now be more difficult to discharge transgender soldiers, according to documents obtained by USA Today.
Based on the undated memorandum called the All Army Activities Directive, the authority to discharge will rest with the assistant secretary of the Army for personnel. Lower-level officers will no longer have this authority. While activists appreciate the gesture, they say it’s simply is not enough, since transgender soldiers still have to hide their condition. Additionally, whether this will result in fewer discharges remains to be seen.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, expected to be succeeded by Ash Carter on Tuesday, has stated in the past that the policy banning transgender soldiers from service needs to be reviewed. The White House has also signaled approval of a review, but it currently is not a very high priority for the military.
“Hopefully this is a signal that the Army — and other service branches — will finally begin a comprehensive review of the regulations regarding transgender servicemembers, which everyone agrees is long overdue,” said Joshua Block, who leads the American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “I also hope the 12-month time frame is an indication that the Army understands the urgency of this issue for transgender servicemembers and their commanders.”
The news comes just shortly after revelations that the Army will provide hormone treatment for Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning, a 27-year-old who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking sensitive documents to WikiLeaks. Manning currently resides in Kansas’ Fort Leavenworth Army prison, and the recent decision will mark the first time hormone treatment has ever been granted by the Department of Defense, The Associated Press reported. The Department of Veterans Affairs, on the other hand, already pays for hormone treatment but not reassignment surgery, according to CS Monitor.
Best estimates place the number of transgender soldiers discharged from the Army at around 24. The exact figure is unknown because the Pentagon doesn’t keep numbers.