Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Missouri Republican, wants to reverse an Obama administration directive that enabled transgender troops to undergo gender reassignment surgery and continue to serve rather than face an automatic discharge. Lauren Victoria Burke Associated Press file photo
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Missouri Republican, wants to reverse an Obama administration directive that enabled transgender troops to undergo gender reassignment surgery and continue to serve rather than face an automatic discharge. Lauren Victoria Burke Associated Press file photo

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Missouri congresswoman wants to block transgender troops

By Bryan Lowry

blowry@kcstar.com

June 30, 2017 02:21 PM

UPDATED June 30, 2017 02:22 PM

U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler says that allowing transgender soldiers to serve costs taxpayers too much money.

The Obama administration issued a directive in its final year that enabled transgender troops to undergo gender reassignment surgery and continue to serve rather than face an automatic discharge.

Hartzler, a Republican whose district covers central and western Missouri, wants to reverse that policy and pointed to the cost of the surgery as the reason.

“The Obama transgender policy, which was implemented without input from members of Congress, is ill-conceived and contrary to our goals of increasing troop readiness and investing defense dollars into addressing budget shortfalls of the past,” Hartzler said in a statement.

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“By recruiting and allowing transgender individuals to serve in our military we are subjecting taxpayers to high medical costs including up to $130,000 per transition surgery, lifetime hormone treatments, and additional surgeries to address the high percentage of individuals who experience complications.”

But LGBT advocates in Missouri say that Hartzler is using this financial argument to mask her opposition to transgender rights.

A RAND Corporation study last year found that the cost of surgeries and hormone treatments could lead to a .13 percent increase in health care costs for the military. The study also found that Australia, Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom saw no impact to operational effectiveness from allowing transgender soldiers to serve.

“Her stance on military readiness of trans folks is actually not about supporting the military…her stance has always been strictly anti-LGBT,” said Steph Perkins, the executive director of PROMO, a Missouri organization that advocates for LGBT rights.

Perkins pointed out that Hartzler made similar arguments when she opposed the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy that prevented gay soldiers from being open about their sexual orientation.

Hartzler offered — and then withdrew — an amendment to block transgender troops during a House Armed Services committee meeting Thursday.

Hartzler said that she wants to give the Department of Defense a chance to address the issue internally, but she also hinted that she may revive the amendment in July

“Military service is a privilege — not a right — predicated on the singular goal of fighting and winning our nation’s wars.”

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3