'Merica: You will now pay for Chelsea Manning's "transitional hormone therapy"

It’s been a banner month for Chelsea Manning. Right on the heels of learning that he will be an unpaid op-ed writer for the Guardian, (writing about “war, gender and freedom of information”) the convicted traitor has been informed that he will be receivinghormone therapy for transition to a woman.”

Try to contain your excitement.

WASHINGTON — In a first for the Army, Chelsea Manning, the convicted national-security secrets leaker, has been approved for hormone therapy for transition to a woman at the Army’s Fort Leavenworth prison, according to a memo obtained Thursday by USA TODAY.

Manning remains a soldier as well as an inmate.

“After carefully considering the recommendation that (hormone treatment) is medically appropriate and necessary, and weighing all associated safety and security risks presented, I approve adding (hormone treatment) to Inmate Manning’s treatment plan,” Col. Erica Nelson, the commandant of the Fort Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks in Kansas, wrote in a Feb. 5 memo.

There are questions that will need to be answered as to how this came about. The standing policy for the military is that this therapy is not approved for active duty service members. (Though oddly enough it is approved for veterans in some cases.) Manning is still technically a soldier and presumably will remain so until his time in Leavenworth is up. But it looks like this was too much of a hot potato for the military and when the ACLU sued the government on his behalf the decision was tossed over to the Justice Department. They were the ones who approved this and sent the “recommendation” back to the commandant at Leavenworth, giving them cover to go ahead.

This gets more complicated because as things currently stand, “transgender individuals” are still barred from serving in the Army, but Leavenworth is only for service members. How are they going to square that conflict? And if the treatment is approved for one soldier, then the proscription against providing such hormone therapy is essentially nullified for anyone with a marginally competent lawyer. By making allowances for Manning in what appears to be little more than a public relations move, the Justice Department is creating a host of potential headaches for the armed services.

Peter Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union came out saying that the public shouldn’t have to pay for this and that Manning’s fame should make it possible to collect funds for treatment privately, through fundraising. That’s probably true, given his army of supporters, but with this authorization in place it seems a near certainty that the treatment will be on your dime. So… go America.

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