A group of transgender veterans is filing a lawsuit against the Department of Veteran Affairs over delays in gender-transition surgeries.

“What am I supposed to tell my transgender veterans that are trying to commit suicide because they can’t see themselves in their body?” Bekky Eshler, the president of the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), told Military.com in a report about the lawsuit. “We’ve been trying to be friendly with the VA. We’ve worked with them really well. But at the end of the day, you got to keep your promises.”

The TAVA lawsuit is expected to be filed Thursday, over two years after the Biden administration said it was going to allow the VA to cover gender transition surgeries.

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Protesters in New York City hit the streets in support of transgender troops. (Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

That announcement was made in June 2021 by VA Secretary Denis McDonough, and came shortly after President Biden announced that he was lifting the ban on transgender Americans serving openly in the military.

The 2021 announcement by McDonough jump started the formal rulemaking process for the change, according to the Military.com report, a typical step toward updating VA medical coverages.

McDonough said at the time that the process would take about two years, but the VA has still not released a timeline for when the coverage rules will be finalized and veterans will be able to undergo the procedures. The VA secretary said in June that the policy was currently awaiting his approval but did not explain why he has delayed the decision, the report said.

TAVA issued a warning in November that a lawsuit could be on the horizon if the VA failed to take action to approve the procedures while calling on the agency to respond to a 2016 petition to cover the surgeries. That petition was filed under the Administrative Procedure Act, requiring agencies to respond “within a reasonable time.”

Transgender flag gender affirming care

A transgender flag unfurled on a pole. (Getty)

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A month later the VA responded to the petition, but not to the satisfaction of TAVA.

The VA currently covers some transgender care for veterans, the Military.com report noted, including hormone therapy, mental health care, pre- and post-operative care, voice coaching and medically necessary prosthetics. 

In a statement to Military.com, the VA declined to comment on pending litigation but said it is the agency’s mission to “provide transgender veterans – and all veterans – with the world-class care and benefits they deserve.”

“We thank each and every one of these heroes for their service and sacrifice, and we will continue to work to serve them as well as they have served our nation,” VA spokesperson Terrence Hayes continued.

VA building sign in Washington DC

The Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington, D.C. (Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Image)

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The VA did not immediately respond to a Fox News Digital request for comment.

Meanwhile, transgender veterans worry that the upcoming presidential election could close the window for getting the changes finalized.

“They are letting us die,” Natalie Kastner, a transgender veteran who has gone through multiple mental health episodes while awaiting surgery, told Military.com. “They are letting us needlessly die.”



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