When President Donald Trump announced two weeks ago that he would reinstate a ban on allowing transgender Americans to serve in the armed forces, he cited as central to this decision the “tremendous medical costs” supposedly incurred by providing transgender servicemembers with transition care.
We know this is a flimsy excuse, a smokescreen for promoting discrimination—and now a new report from the Palm Center bears this out.
According to the report, the cost of discharging the estimated 15,000 transgender Americans who currently serve in the armed forces is a staggering $960 million dollars—all of that tied to the cost of rehiring and retraining replacements.
That’s nearly $1 billion that won’t go to securing our military’s operational readiness, or to combat the growing threats around the globe. It’s $1 billion that will be utterly wasted simply to pursue a discriminatory policy that hurts brave transgender servicemembers and their families.
The cost of transition-related health care for transgender troops, on the other hand, is only $8.4 million—or a mere $656 per person per year, a fraction of the $75,000 it would cost to replace each discharged servicemember. That’s because most transgender servicemembers don’t require transition-related care while serving.
The Palm Center’s figures come from financial data released by the Blue Ribbon Commission and the Government Accountability Office. From the mid-1990s to the late 2000s both the Commission and the GAO did a similar cost analysis of discharging lesbian and gay servicemembers under the now-repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. These studies similarly found that the Defense Department spent much more to hire and train new servicemembers than it would have if they had been allowed to remain in the service.
This report is the clearest evidence yet that discharging thousands of transgender servicemembers will put more financial strain on our armed forces, not less. And this report doesn’t deal at all with the cost of legal actions that are likely to be brought by service members who are discharged arbitrarily under this policy. The first case of this kind is already being brought against the Trump Administration by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).
Contrary to the President’s claims, discriminating against transgender servicemembers by firing them and prohibiting them from enlisting in the military is the financial burden. Replacing the lost expertise and dedication of 15,000 people without warning is the financial burden. Facing joblessness, loss of healthcare and other benefits is the financial burden—and it’s being forced on transgender servicemembers and taxpaying Americans, the vast majority of whom support our transgender troops.