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article imageCanada: Free Viagra and transgender surgery for troops may end

By Yukio Strachan     Apr 29, 2012 in Lifestyle
The National Defense department may eliminate free Viagra and taxpayer-funded sex-reassignment surgery for members of the military as the government looks for ways to trim $1.5 billion from its defense budget.
The Canadian Press reports that government officials say both programs –– worth more than $2 million a year –– have been offered up for elimination by the department twice in the last two years.
Viagra, used to treat erectile dysfunction, was a health policy to ensure soldiers were mentally fit and ready for battle, according to CBC News.
As reported by the Toronto Star, "it’s not as if Viagra is being distributed like candy. While provided free, the tablets are available only after a doctor has determined a medical need and issued a prescription."
But government officials have been concerned over the years about the rising cost of the Viagra program, which allows members to get up to six of the little blue pills per month at a cost of $15 to $22 per pill.
Viagra   the little blue pill
Viagra, "the little blue pill"
Wikimedia Commons
While serving members of the military might be cut off, ex-soldiers would not be affected, said a spokeswoman for Veterans Affairs, which in the past has spent more than $1.5 million a year on its program, The Canadian Press reports.
"Veterans Affairs Canada continues to cover Viagra for eligible veterans," Janice Summerby said in an email statement.
Getting the federal government to cover the cost was the result of years of lobbying by the War Amps of Canada in the late 1990s.The United States and Australia have similar programs for their soldiers.
Surgery policy could change
But sex-reassignment surgeries are another matter entirely, said Errol Mendes, a constitutional law expert, according to CBC News.
"It shows the Canadian military is more open and progressive, especially when compared to what you see south of the border," he said. "This cut could be ideological and playing to [the Conservative] base."
The cost of sex-reassignment surgeries has been covered since 1998.
Fear of legal repercussions, in the form of a human-rights complaint or even a Charter of Rights challenge, has apparently given federal officials pause about the elimination of the surgeries, according to the Canadian Press.
For example, The Forces was caught in a decade-long fight with a transgender Quebec lawyer Micheline Montreuil who claimed she was discriminated against because of her sexuality when the military refused in 1999 to enlist her. A federal human rights tribunal rejected the complaint in 2009.
But the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled the Canadian Forces discriminated against Montreuil in 2003, when it passed her up for a job as a grievance officer, according to the Canadian Press.
The tribunal ruled Montreuil's sexuality was the real reason she didn't get the position and awarded her $40,000.
Mixed reactions
"Good grief, young robust well trained soldiers need Viagra????" one commented online. "Free at that! This drug when developed was to be used to help men who suffered from impotency, period!
"It's time Canadians stop having to pay for sexual aides for our military personal. If you have a problem, pay for your own treatments like the vast majority of Canadians have to do."
One commenter who identified himself as a soldier disagrees and shares his experience. "This drug is commonly prescribed to soldiers that are undergoing PTSD treatments as MOST of the drugs used to treat PTSD cause a male soldier to become impotent. That I know for a fact, been there, got that T-shirt and thank god that once you stop taking the drugs it works again."
They treat you for depression, by using a drug that as a side effect kills the urge to have sex (making your wife feel inadequate in the process, think you were depressed before just wait till your wife is pissed at you. I think this also is the reason some wives of soldiers screw around on them) and makes it so you can't get it up, making you more depressed it is a vicious circle.
"You want good soldiers you have to pay for them plain and simple."
"Next, the whole transgender thing is another issue," said another. "I do not think it is the military's role to cover this surgery. It is your choice to change how you look to look like the opposite sex. Nothing says you cannot live as a woman, dress like a woman and act like a woman without breasts."
Others share their personal experience. "I know someone in our company who is ex-military and transgendered," Massey Jones writes on CBC News. "It's a bit evident due to the handshake, the deeper voice and the "not so feminine looks".
He added: "Being transgendered (I've never discussed it with her and she doesn't know that I know), is apparently very painful and is not done for cosmetic purposes."
"Trans surgery, properly known as sex reassignment surgery, is another matter," a transgendered soldier shared. "This is a procedure that is deemed essential by the medical people at the World Professional Association on Transgender Health (WPATH), and, for someone undergoing a medical transition, can be lifesaving. I know, because I am one of the people who has benefitted [sic] from this."
But without transition and surgery, I was finding myself in a depressive state such that continuing without it was becoming untenable. It got to the point where it was quite literally a question of 'transition or die'. This is something that many transsexual people face, and, without access to proper medical treatment, too many of us will go on to complete a suicide.
What do you think?
Should the government proceed with these program cuts? Or, do you think these are important programs that should be available for the military? Let us know in the comment section below!
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