An Orrick pro bono team, collaborating with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), today filed a lawsuit challenging a federal statute that has prevented veterans and active service members from securing coverage for their dependents for medically necessary surgical treatments for gender dysphoria.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, was brought on behalf of a 23-year veteran of the Air Force and Marine Corps and his 21-year-old adult daughter. The lawsuit specifically challenges 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 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.
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.
The complaint challenges 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.
“As a former servicemember myself, I know firsthand how many sacrifices military spouses and families make,” said Orrick associate Shane McCammon, who served for over 12 years as an active-duty Air Force JAG and is a leading member of our team’s pro bono effort on the 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.”