WASHINGTON — The Pentagon approved a gender-reassignment surgery for an active-duty military member, defense officials said on Tuesday, four months after President Trump abruptly announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military.
The surgery is the latest setback to Mr. Trump’s effort to put a ban in place. Two weeks ago, a federal judge temporarily blocked the ban, ruling that the administration’s justification for it was suspect and most likely unconstitutional.
Even before the ruling, officials at the Defense Department had been slow-walking Mr. Trump’s orders, telling transgender members of the military that they could continue to serve openly while the Pentagon decided how to handle the ban.
In announcing the ban in July, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter that United States forces could not afford the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” of transgender service members. He said he had consulted with generals and military experts, but Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, was given only a day’s notice of the decision.
The RAND Corporation, in a 2016 study, found that allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military would “have minimal impact on readiness and health care costs” for the Pentagon. It estimated that health care costs would rise $2.4 million to $8.4 million a year, representing an increase of 0.04 to 0.13 percent in spending. Citing research into other countries that allow transgender people to serve, the study projected “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness” in the United States.