SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Latest on transgender troops' impact on the U.S. military since the policy was changed in 2016 under then-President Barack Obama allowing them to serve openly, (all times local):
Transgender troops testifying for the first time to Congress say transitioning to another sex made them stronger, while Pentagon officials defended the Trump administration's desire to bar people like them from enlisting in the future.
Congressional Democrats said at the hearing Wednesday by members of the House Armed Services Committee that President Donald Trump's policy is based on discrimination and likened it to the Army's ban on blacks in the 1940s.
Retired Air Force Gen. James N. Stewart, who is now performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, defended Trump's policy that is held up in litigation. He says it is not a ban, but the military cannot make "special accommodations" for people with a medical condition.
The Pentagon has spent nearly $8 million to treat more than 1,500 transgender troops since 2016 when the Obama administration changed the policy to allow them to serve openly.
The data from the Defense Department was given to the House Armed Services Committee ahead of a hearing Wednesday in which transgender service members are scheduled to testify before members of Congress for the first time.
The Trump administration is pushing to reinstate the ban on transgender personnel, citing medical costs as a reason. The ban remains blocked by litigation.
The military's health care budget tops $50 billion.
Transgender troops will testify about their service for the first time before Congress as the Trump administration pushes to ban them.
Among those set to testify Wednesday before lawmakers of the House Armed Services Committee will be five active-duty transgender service members and Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, a Navy Reserve commander who helped push to remove the military's last barrier to service under the Obama administration.
Also testifying will be Pentagon officials.
They are expected to be questioned about whether transgender troops have affected the military's warfighting abilities and whether any medical evidence supports excluding them.
Since the U.S. military welcomed transgender people in 2016, they have served without incident. Many have earned medals from a military that only recently denied them the chance to serve.