Head of Veterans Affairs Resigns Amid ScandalSex-Change Surgery Coverage Ban Lifted by MedicareHouse Supports State Medical Marijuana LawsSex-Change Surgery Ban Lifted by MedicareObama Calls for More
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Head of Veterans Affairs Resigns Amid Scandal
Eric Shinseki, the embattled secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department, resigned Friday morning after a meeting with President Barack Obama.
Shinseki's resignation followed increasing evidence of widespread misconduct and mismanagement at the agency's nationwide network of hospitals and medical facilities, The New York Times
Recent revelations found that department hospitals had manipulated waiting lists to hide the fact that thousands of veterans had experienced long delays in scheduling appointments, the Times
Obama said he regretted accepting Shinseki's resignation, but added that "the VA needs new leadership" and Shinseki had become a distraction, USA Today reported.
"We don't have time for distractions," Obama said. "We need to fix the problem."
Obama said Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson will temporarily head up the department, and he plans to nominate a new permanent secretary soon, USA Today reported.
Sex-Change Surgery Coverage Ban Lifted by Medicare
Medicare will no longer automatically deny coverage for sex-change surgery for transgender people.
In a ruling Friday, the U.S. Department of Health and Services review board said sex-change surgery is a medically necessary and effective treatment for people who do not identify with their
biological sex, the Associated Press reported.
The board made its ruling in an appeal brought by a 74-year-old Army veteran whose request to have Medicare pay for her genital reconstruction was denied two years ago.
The decision does not mean Medicare recipients are necessarily entitled to coverage for sex-change surgery, Jennifer Levi, a lawyer who directs the Transgender Rights Project of Gay & Lesbian
Advocates and Defenders in Boston, told the AP.
But she said the ruling does mean that transgender people stand a better chance of having their surgery paid for by Medicare if they have documentation from a physician and mental health providers
that the surgery is medically necessary.
It's unclear how many people might be affected by Friday's decision. About 0.3 percent of the U.S. adult population self-identity as transgender, Gary Gates, a demographer with The Williams
Institute, a think tank on LGBT issues based at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the AP. More than 49 million people are enrolled in Medicare.
House Supports State Medical Marijuana Laws
In a surprise move, the Republican-controlled House voted in favor of preventing the federal government from interfering with states that allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons. Medical
marijuana is legal in nearly half the states.
The 219-189 vote early Friday was on a measure introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, the first state to legalize medical marijuana, the Associated Press reported.
"Public opinion is shifting," Rohrabacher said. "Despite this overwhelming shift of public opinion, the federal government continues its hard line of oppression against medical marijuana."