What good is improved VA gender policy if it’s inaccessible?Trans Progressive Thursday, September 20th, 2012
Commentary: Trans Progressive
In June of 2011 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) changed its policies for transgender veterans who access veterans’ services, especially the Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA) portion of the VA system.
When the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) announced the policy change, they stated that transgender veterans would be allowed to change their genders within the VA system to match their self-identified genders. NCTE published this question in their FAQ for the new federal policy:
“Does the new VA policy affect my medical records?
“Yes. The documented gender in the VA’s medical records will now reflect an individual’s self-identified gender. In order to change the name and gender in VA medical records, the individual must provide official documentation as per Veterans Health Administration policies.”
Here’s what VHA Directive 2011-024, the directive that announced the policy changes, stated:
“The documented sex in the Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS) should be consistent with the patient’s self-identified gender. In order to modify administrative data (e.g., name and sex) in CPRS, patients must provide official documentation as per current VHA policies on Identity Authentication for Health Care Services and Data Quality Requirements for Identity Management and Master Patient Index Functions.”
There weren’t any clearly enunciated policies in those two referenced documents.
Well, the clear intent of the VHA directive was to allow trans veterans to change their gender in the system to “consistent with the patient’s self-identified gender.” So, I tested the system for the NCTE and my peer trans veterans.
My gender in the VA was listed as male, so on three different occasions I provided documentation that indicated my self-identified gender was female. The last document I handed the VA was a letter from a medical doctor that was formatted exactly as required to change a sex marker with the State Department – the State Department being the government agency that issues passports.
And, it came back rejected. I filed an administrative appeal with the VA.
Because of that appeal, the VA clarified their policy. To quote the NCTE from their blog entry “Veterans Administration makes important clarification on records policy” (March 2):
“The VA has now clarified that this policy is intended to mirror the State Department passport policy. Effective immediately, to change the gender on VHA medical records, a vet must simply provide a letter from a physician certifying that the vet has changed genders and has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. To be clear, the physician’s letter does not need to certify that some specific surgery or any particular medical procedure has been completed – only appropriate clinical care for the individual veteran as determined by the physician.”
With this clarification of VA policy I should have been able to easily change my gender with the VA. Yes, should have.
My appeal is the impetus the VA is using to hash out what their backend documentation policy regarding how many sex/gender markers there will be.
So, the VA changed their policy on gender markers to address the issue of people like me. But, I’m not allowed to avail myself of the relatively new policy because the VA is using my appeal to help clarify their backend documentation issues.
It all feels a bit bittersweet. It’ll work out in the long run, I’m sure, but in the short run … well, the VA misgenders me in a way my trans veteran peers don’t have to be misgendered.
Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=29169