Hartzler: Transgender service members 'costly' to military

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  • "We shouldn't make an exception" for transgender service members when recruits are denied for having asthma and flat feet
  • The House rejected Hartzler's amendment two weeks ago to cut funding for transgender service members' medical treatments

Washington (CNN)Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler voiced her support for President Donald Trump's decision to reinstate a ban on transgender military service members Wednesday, comparing transgender individuals to those with medical issues like asthma and flat feet.

Citing gender dysphoria as a medical diagnosis "which could require very costly medical treatment," Hartzler recalled how one of her interns was rejected by the military for a foot ailment.
"I had an intern that was denied the ability to go into the military because she had a bunion on her foot, and the argument was that this may cost the military and she might have to have surgery," Hartzler told Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Wolf."  
    "Right now, we have people who cannot serve in the military with asthma or with flat feet," she continued. "So why would we allow individuals to come in, although they're very patriotic and we appreciate their desire to serve, but who have medical problems that could be very costly? We shouldn't make an exception in this case."
    The Missouri congresswoman made headlines two weeks ago with a controversial amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. Her proposal suggested cutting military funding for transition-related surgeries or hormone therapy treatments, sparking intense debate over the future of transgender military service members' health care.
    Although the amendment was narrowly defeated, 209-214, Hartzler told CNN in a phone interview last week that several absences from Republican lawmakers could have tipped the scales. Six Republicans, including House minority whip Steve Scalise who was still recovering from last month's shooting, did not vote on the amendment. In total, 24 GOP lawmakers and a unanimous Democratic bloc voted against it.
    "The vote count would have been different if we had several members who ended up having to be away from their vote at the last minute," Hartzler explained. "But it was very close."
    In response to Trump's tweets this morning announcing the military ban, Hartzler said in a statement to CNN, "Our military is the most effective, efficient and well-funded fighting force in the world, and as the President notes, we cannot burden our armed forces with the tremendous costs and disruptions that transgender (sic) in the military would entail."
    "Each dollar needs to be spent to address threats facing our nation," she added.
    Hartzler also told Blitzer Wednesday that she had concerns about the cost of medical treatments for transgender service members in the military.
    "I've looked at this issue very, very closely, and this policy is going to cost $1.35 billion over the next 10 years alone, just for sex reassignment surgeries for the transgender members of our service," Hartzler said.
    When pressed further by Blitzer about how Hartzler calculated her cost estimates, the Republican lawmaker responded: "Well, our own office did that analysis and we feel very confident in it. There's one that's been done by the Family Research Council that says $3.7 billion. So the question is, though, should we be spending any tax dollars to do gender reassignment surgeries when we have soldiers who don't have body armor or bullets?"
    "We need to be investing every dollar that we have to meet the threats that we're facing as a nation," she added.
    But a 2016 think tank study by the RAND Corporation commissioned by the Department of Defense contradicts Hartzler's assessments. The study found that the costs of transition-related treatments are "relatively low" with an increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually. The study also found that there are between 1,320 to 6,630 active-duty transgender service members, but only a small percentage, between 29 and 129 service members, "will seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy."
    Ash Carter, the former defense secretary under President Barack Obama, ended the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military in 2016, but allowed for a year-long review process to give the Pentagon time to determine how it would accept new transgender recruits into the military. Current Defense Secretary James Mattis announced last month that he was delaying the July 1 deadline set by Carter to review the military's policy on allowing transgender recruits to join the service.
    Mattis wrote in a memo last month that they would "use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality."
    Requests for comment from the Department of Defense and the White House on the timeline of the military ban and how it will affect transgender individuals currently serving were not immediately returned.