A local veteran is calling for change within the VA. After a ban was lifted on transgender people serving in the military, it was announced the military would fund reassignment surgeries.
This veteran wants that same privilege active military members now have. Things could actually change.
Jan Starks was born male 62 years ago. But, she says she always knew that wasn’t really her.
“My mind and my body did not coincide,” Starks said.
She served in the army as a young man during the Vietnam era.
“I was growing up in the 50s and 60s so you didn’t say a whole lot or you’d be put in an insane asylum,” she said.
Fast forward to 1996. Jan decides to become Jan. She tells me the first long battle was getting her gender changed on medical records at the VA.
” It took a seven year battle and finally they agreed okay, we’re going to give you the title as a female on your medical records,” Starks said.
Now, she’s calling for more change. Just this year the Pentagon lifted a ban on transgender people openly serving in the military. And, in approved circumstances the military will pay for reassignment surgeries for active military.
“I just wish the veterans would be now given that same chance to feel the elation and finally be able to be who they are,” Starks said.
Jan is making efforts to have her voice heard. She has written to the President of the United States, State Lawmakers, and even television talk shows, but says she’s hit a dead end trying to work with the local VA.
“We take our mission seriously in caring for our nations heroes by providing all medically necessary care that has been approved for us to provide,” VA Medical Director Bryan Matthews said.
The VA’s current directive for providing health care for transgender and intersex veterans directly says “VA does not provide sex reassignment surgery or plastic reconstructive surgery for strictly cosmetic purposes”. The directive expires in February of 2018.
“The VA is now looking at whether they will change the rules and regulations,” Matthews said.
Currently the VA’s national level is reviewing a proposal to lift the ban on gender reassignment surgery. But, it’s in the early stages and could take years to reach our local level.
“We’re not going to get the same recognition, probably not in my lifetime,” Starks said. “I’m 62”