During a Sunday appearance on ABC's "This Week," Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he was "open" to reviewing the military's ban on transgender service members. When asked by host Martha Raddatz if the policy should be looked at again, Hagel replied, "I do think it -- it continually should be reviewed. I'm open to that, by the way. I'm open to those assessments, because, again, I go back to the bottom line. Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it."
Hagel also said that "the issue of transgender is a bit more complicated" because it has a "medical component" to it. But expert consensus does not support Hagel's hesitation. In March, an independent commission led by former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders concluded that there is “no compelling medical reason” for the military to prohibit transgender people from serving openly, and President Obama has the authority to lift the ban.
According to the commission, facilitating trans service members’ gender transitions “would place almost no burden on the military,” estimating that approximately 230 trans personnel would seek such surgery each year at an average cost of about $30,000. Transition-related hormone treatment is nearly identical in scope to healthcare services regularly provided to cisgender service members, so the panel concluded that providing trans service members access to this care would also not present a burden to the military.
Under current military policy, a transgender service member can be dismissed if he or she is are outed. A recent report from the Williams Institute estimated that more than 15,000 trans people are currently serving in the military.