Trump has argued the Pentagon cannot be ‘burdened’ with the ‘tremendous medical costs’ of covering trans military members – but a closer look at the numbers reveals a different reality
Wednesday 26 July 2017
On Wednesday, when Donald Trump tweeted that the US armed forces would not “allow or accept” transgender people into military service, he argued the Pentagon “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs” of covering transgender-related healthcare.
That’s been a common refrain for Republicans who oppose open service by transgender members of the military. In June, the congresswoman Vicki Hartzler of Missouri said that the cost of covering service members’ transition care was “over a billion dollars”.
But is the cost really “tremendous”?
A closer look at the cost of healthcare for transgender military members – these are treatments such as counseling and hormone replacement therapy – suggests it’s more like a drop in the ocean of cash that is the Pentagon’s annual budget.
According to a 2016 study by the Rand Corporation and commissioned by Barack Obama’s secretary of defense, transgender-related healthcare for active duty military would cost anywhere between $2.4m to $8.4m – not billions.
In fiscal year 2014, before the study was completed, the Pentagon spent $6.27bn on healthcare costs for all active-duty personnel. That same fiscal year, the Pentagon spend a huge $49.3bn on all healthcare costs – for members of the military, their family members, and retirees and their families.
These comparisons uses the high-end estimate of $8.4m, which is based on a scenario that members of the military are twice as likely to be transgender as members of the general public.