Manning to lose transgender benefits with dishonorable discharge

by Tom Vanden Brook
USA Today

WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the national-security leaker and transgender soldier, will lose her entitlement to military health care benefits under the terms of the sentence that President Obama commuted, according to the Army.

Obama’s commutation Tuesday will allow Manning to leave the Army’s prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., on May 17, about six years before she would have been eligible for parole. The Army has been providing her with treatment for gender dysphoria, including hormone treatments.

She had been a candidate for gender-reassignment surgery, which would have been paid for under the Pentagon’s new policy for transgender troops.

But the terms of the 35-year sentence the court-martial imposed includes a “dishonorable discharge,” which the commutation did not affect, Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said Wednesday.

“If Pvt. Manning is discharged with a dishonorable discharge, she will lose her entitlement to (military) benefits, including gender-transition care at (military) medical treatment facilities,” Smith said.

Manning can appeal the discharge determination, Smith said. If that appeal is denied, Manning will then be dishonorably discharged from the Army.

A dishonorable discharge would also bar Manning, formerly known as Bradley, from receiving benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department. The VA for several years has been providing treatment to veterans for gender dysphoria for several years.

Obama on Wednesday defended Manning’s commutation, saying she had “served a tough prison sentence.” Manning has been imprisoned for about seven years for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the web site WikiLeaks.
 Republicans blasted Obama’s decision.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin on Tuesday called the move an outrageous and dangerous precedent.

Manning’s fight for treatment has galvanized supporters of transgender rights. She and her lawyers successfully obtained counseling, hormone treatments and the right to wear some women’s clothing. Last year, she twice attempted to commit suicide.

Manning will undergo a 40-hour transition program provided to all inmates prior to her release, Smith said.

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