NYC Joins Amicus Brief In Challenging Gender-Affirming Surgery Denial

June 30, 2017

On June 28, 2017, New York City joined a coalition of municipalities and private employers across the United States in filing an amicus brief in Fulcher v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

This is a challenge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ blanket policy of refusing coverage for gender-affirming surgery for transgender veterans.

“The brave Americans who put their lives on the line for our country deserve to be treated with nothing but dignity and respect, regardless of their gender identity,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Denying our veterans access to gender affirming health care and benefits is unconscionable. New York City has long been a leader in the fight for LGBTQ equality, and we are proud to stand with transgender and gender non-conforming people across the country in the fight against discrimination.”

First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray said, “NYC will wholeheartedly protect veterans regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. We denounce any discriminatory or marginalizing practice, such as the exclusion of gender-confirmation surgery from veterans’ medical benefits. And, I will continue to make the mental health needs of our LGBTQ veterans a priority through VetsThriveNYC. We must never forget that it is our veterans who risked their lives to preserve our freedoms at home and abroad. It is only right that we tend to all of their mental and physical needs when they have performed the highest level of service to our country.”

The brief describes the amici’s experience offering transgender-inclusive medical benefits, including gender-affirming surgery, to employees and their dependents, and explains that providing this coverage confers significant benefits to both employees and employers while imposing no significant financial burden. New York City provides health plans to its employees that include coverage for transition-related care, including gender-affirming surgery.

The full brief can be read here.

City Corporation Counsel Zachary W. Carter said, “The City of New York has long been a leader in seeking inclusion for our transgender residents and protecting them from discrimination. As our amicus explains, we know from experience that offering coverage for transition-related care benefits the City and its employees and does not impose a significant financial burden. It should not be denied under the law.”

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Department of Veteran Services’ Commissioner Loree Sutton said: “The NYC Department of Veterans’ Services joins all who urge the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to reverse its discriminatory exclusion of gender confirmation surgery and provide comprehensive care for transgender veterans seeking transition-related treatment. Over the past decade, organizations including the American Medical Association and the Department of Health and Human Services have concluded that research supports the effectiveness and ‘medical necessity’ of providing access to fully inclusive care, including surgery. Perpetuating discriminatory and marginalizing policies for transgender veterans inflicts an unwarranted individual and societal burden that is destructive, ill-considered and, given current medical knowledge, simply wrong.”

“Veterans who have bravely risked their lives protecting our country’s freedoms deserve our respect and to be protected against discrimination,” said Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, Carmelyn P. Malalis. “Denying anyone their right to gender affirming health care and benefits is not only cruel, it’s discriminatory. In New York City, all employees have the right to gender-affirming health care under the city’s Human Rights Law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit should do the right thing and direct the Department of Veteran Affairs to lift this discriminatory ban so our brave transgender veterans can get the care they need and the dignity they deserve.”

“Our early experience in providing gender-affirming surgery at the largest public health system in the country reaffirms our commitment that it’s the right thing to do for the health of our patients,” said Stanley Brezenoff, interim president and chief executive officer of NYC Health + Hospitals. “America’s veterans certainly deserve no less.”

The de Blasio Administration is committed to making New York City a safe space for the transgender community. NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan has created programs that allow for LGBTQ New Yorkers to receive the best mental and physical care possible. By providing health services for patients, regardless of gender identity, Metropolitan has made a significant step forward in eliminating barriers for transgender people.

At NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan, transgender patients referred by their primary care physician can access breast augmentation and implants, or chest masculinization surgery, commonly referred to as “top surgery.” The hospital’s interdisciplinary team works with patients and their health insurers to obtain all the necessary pre-surgical clearances and statements of medical necessity from their physicians. The hospital has also expanded access to hormone therapy through a dedicated clinic. Patients can make an appointment for a consultation with a hormone therapy specialist, regardless of whether they have a primary care physician at the hospital.

New York City continues to lead the nation in protecting LGBTQ rights. Earlier this month, the de Blasio Administration published New York City’s first-ever LGBTQ Healthcare Bill of Rights. In June 2016, New York City became the first municipality to launch a citywide campaign specifically affirming the right of transgender individuals to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity or expression. In March 2016, Mayor de Blasio issued an executive order requiring City agencies to ensure that employees and members of the public are given equal access to City single-sex facilities without being required to show identification, medical documentation or any other form of proof or verification of gender. In December 2015, the NYC Commission on Human Rights issued legal enforcement guidance defining specific gender identity protections under the City Human Rights Law, including equal bathroom access.

“Our transgender veterans put everything, including their lives, on the line to protect our freedoms and yet the federal government denies them the basic human right of being themselves,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. “In New York we embrace and support each other for the things that make us unique. Thank you to Mayor de Blasio for standing up for the rights of the transgender community both in New York and throughout the country.”

“The federal government dishonors transgender veterans by refusing to cover their gender-affirming surgery,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “These veterans have sacrificed so much to keep us safe. The federal government should do whatever it can to help these heroes be true to who they are. In the meantime, transgender veterans should know that New York City has their backs. We will continue to advocate for them until this terrible injustice is a thing of the past.”

Photo via source.

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