gay-military-with-flag1The Department of Defense announced today, Feb. 1, a proposed rule change extending benefits to transgender troops and their families as part of a comprehensive change in mental health and wellness benefits.

The proposed change allows Tricare, the military’s health program,  to cover hormone therapy “consistent with the program requirements applicable for treatment of all mental or physical illnesses.”

The rule change does not, however, cover gender reassignment surgery.

The full rule change can be found here.

LGBT groups welcomed the announcement.

“All service members, veterans, and military dependents, no matter their gender identity, deserve access to the medical care they’ve earned serving our great nation,” said Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partners Association, said in a statement.

“I applaud the reports from the Pentagon on its proposed changes to medical benefits for our transgender service members, their families and our veterans. This is a significant step by the Pentagon to ensure that transgender service members, their families and veterans are being treated equal and have the ability to obtain the necessary care they deserve,” Matt Thorn, interim executive director for OutServe-SLDN said in a statement.

The rule change comes as the Pentagon plans to announce by spring ending the ban on transgender military service.

The news comes as the Secretary of Defense is set to announce his decision by this spring on whether to lift the ban on transgender service members.

Last year AMPA and Transgender American Veterans Association released a report highlighting the negative impact of the ban on trans service members and their families.

“The outdated regulations serve no purpose and only dehumanize and prevent qualified and capable individuals from enlisting and serving. The ban perpetuates trauma to all those involved, both the service member and their family,” the report concludes.

In June of 2015, the American Medical Association approved a resolution saying there is “no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from service in the U.S. military.”

In 2010, President Obama repealed the law known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell banning gay and lesbian service members from openly serving.