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Defense Secretary Ash Carter announces a new transgender policy for the Department of Defense during a briefing at the Pentagon, June 30, 2016. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee.

​The Pentagon on Thursday reversed its policy barring transgender individuals from openly serving in the military, prohibiting service members from being involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied reenlistment because of their gender identity. The Defense Department will by Oct. 1 create a commander’s training handbook, medical protocol, and guidance for changing a service member's gender in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment System. “We’re talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday in announcing the policy change. “We can’t allow barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission.”

Over the next year, the Pentagon will finalize training plans and implementation guidance, along with revising regulations to train commanders, human resources specialists, recruiters, and other service members. By July 1, 2017, the military will begin allowing transgender individuals to join the services, if they meet accession standards. These individuals will also be allowed entrance to service academies and the Reserve Officers Training Corps.The RAND Corporation, which released a study alongside the policy change on Thursday, estimated that between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender service members are currently in service. The study estimates there would be between 30 and 140 new hormone treatments per year, and 25 to 130 gender transition-related surgeries could occur per year among active troops. Additional health care costs could range between $2.4 million and $8.4 million, about a 0.13 percent increase. (See also: DOD Fact sheet on policy change and special report on DOD’s transgender policy.)