COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A new military policy which will pay for transgender surgeries and treatment is starting this month, according to the Department of Defense.
However, the policy is being met with backlash and criticism from some in the valley and nationwide.
Many WTVM viewers say it's not transgender service members they are against, rather the policy to fund their treatment. Some say they don't like the idea that taxpayer dollars will be funding these surgeries and treatments when it could be going to veteran care or pay raises for soldiers.
"Transgender Americans may serve openly and they can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military just for being transgender," said Secretary of Defense Ash Carter this summer as he announced that all can serve openly.
It's been a progressive year for transgender service members, but the next step in the new policy timeline has some upset, as the Department of Defense says they will begin paying for transgender surgeries and treatment.
"This is absolutely absurd, and I certainly hope our congressional delegation in Washington will be pushing back against it," said Georgia Senator Josh McKoon of Columbus.
Key findings from Pentagon research show about 1,300 to 6,600 service members are believed to be transgender. This is out of more than one million service members total, according to the DOD. Research estimates about 29 to 129 service members will seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy.
On our Facebook page, viewers have plenty to say, like "this money can be better spent in other veterans programs, suicide prevention," and more. Another viewer said, "As a lesbian who supports the LGBT community, I have to say I disagree with this... Take care of our Vets first."
Other numbers show that while transgender-related costs could range from $2.4 million to $8.4 million annually, it amounts to a 0.13 percent or less increase in health-care spending, in a more than $580 billion budget.
For some local lawmakers, it's not so much about money but principle.
"We are all about taking care of our armed forces and making sure that their legitimate medical needs are met and we're not going that well now. So, the idea that we would take any dollar away from that mission to pay for elective surgery is infuriating," said McKoon.
Some in favor of the policy change say it will promote more inclusion and diversity in the military. If you want to weigh in on the conversation, you can leave us a comment under this story on our Facebook page.