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The Pentagon Spends More on Viagra Than Transgender Medical Care

by Countable | 7.27.17

When President Donald Trump tweeted that he was banning transgender people from serving in the military, one of the reasons he cited was "the tremendous medical costs." Almost immediately, critics began pointing out that the cost would be significantly less than the amount the military spends on Viagra.

According to the Rand Corporation, a public policy and analysis think tank, the cost for gender-related health care would increase the military’s budget by somewhere between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually.

In contrast, the Military Times newspaper reported in 2015 that the Pentagon spends around $84 million a year on drugs that treat erectile dysfunction, including $41.6 million a year on Viagra.

Why is the U.S. military spending so much money on Viagra, Cialis and other drugs advertised on late night TV?

RETIREES

According to the Military Times, less than 10% of the prescriptions were for active-duty troops. They received just 102,885 prescriptions for ED medications: totaling $7.67 million, which is still nearly the higher estimate for the total cost of transgender medical care.

According to the Defense Health Agency, as reported in the Military Times, "military beneficiaries, including active-duty personnel, retirees, and eligible family members, filled nearly 1.18 million prescriptions for ED medications through" the Express Scripts program in 2014.

While ED can present for a number of reasons, older men are especially susceptible. And retired, and elderly, service members can still use the military’s health services.

MENTAL HEALTH

Ever since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, ED diagnoses have been increasing in active-duty members.

According to a report by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, between 2004 and 2013 there were 100,248 cases of ED in active-duty members. In over half these diagnoses, the causes were classified as "psychogenic"—meaning psychological, not physical.

There are a number of mental health related factors that can compromise erections: post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. The medications used to treat these disorders can also have the side effect of a non-compliant penis.

In 2008, the Rand Corporation reported that one in five U.S. vets from Iraq and Afghanistan were suffering from PTSD or major depression.

In 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs ran an article titled "Sexual dysfunction a common problem in Veterans with PTSD." The article was based on a review study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, which found that “male Veterans with PTSD were significantly more likely than their civilian counterparts to report erectile dysfunction or other sexual problems.” In one study, researchers found that 85% of male combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD reported ED, compared to 22% of veterans experiencing ED who were not diagnosed with PTSD.

The VA article went on to quote the researchers: "PTSD impairs sexual functioning across multiple domains: desire, arousal, orgasm, activity, and satisfaction."

PHYSICAL FACTORS

Beyond mental health issues, a number of physical factors can prevent an erection: high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and injuries affecting the pelvic area or spinal cord.

Also, Viagra, amongst other ED drugs, can be prescribed to treat a range of non-penis health issues, including diabetes, strokes, heart-failure and infertility in women. However, the Military Times notes that "while drugs such as Viagra, Cialis, Levitra and other phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors are prescribed for other conditions...their most common use is for treating sexual dysfunction in men."

Is Trump correct in his concerns over the "the tremendous medical costs" of allowing transgendered people to serve in the military? Should the Pentagon attempt to lower the costs of treating ED, too? Or should the military take care of all its personnel, regardless of gender-identity or penis rigidity? Hit the Take Action button below and make your voice heard.

--Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: Tim Reckman / Creative Commons)

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