No, the Military Doesn’t Spend 8 Times More on Viagra than Trans Services

transgender viagra meme

transgender viagra memeCourtesy of Occupy Democrats, with over 9,000 likes and 7,200 shares. After Donald Trump’s recent Twitter announcement banning transgender individuals from military service, many memes and news headlines came out with this, and similar claims.

While Occupy Democrats cited this Business Insider article as a source for the meme, that article, and the vast majority of memes and news headlines, are based on this Washington Post article titled, “The military spends five times as much on Viagra as it would on transgender troops’ medical care”.

After investigation, it appears this article is grossly misleading and wrong in its claim, as are the memes based on it.

The Article

transgender military spending erectile dysfunction

Another popular meme based on info from the Washington Post article

In the Post article, they cite a study by the Rand Corporation commissioned by the government that estimates the costs of transgender troops. This study determined that between 1,320-6,630 active duty service members are transgender, with a mid-range estimate of 2,450. This is out of 1.3 million total active duty troops.

The study determined that only a subset of these soldiers would need or want gender transition-related treatment, and gave an estimated cost of $2.4-8.4 million annually in related costs.

The article then goes on to cite an analysis by the Military Times that reported $84 million was spent by the military on erectile dysfunction medication ($41.6 million alone on Viagra). This is the source for their headline, and gave ammunition to a chorus of countless other news pieces and memes claiming the military spends 5, 8, 10 times on ED medication as trans services.

Why It’s Misleading

What the Post article failed to mention was that these two studies are apples to oranges and are comparing vastly different groups. The Rand study only looked at active duty personnel, while the Military Times report included all of the Department of Defense, which includes reserves, civilian employees, retirees and eligible family members. The Post article does make a passing mention that the Rand Study only included active duty troops, but failed to point out that the Military Times study included a much larger group (which coincidentally would have negated their entire point).

To illustrate this discrepancy, note that there are 1.3 million current active duty troops. However, the Department of Defense healthcare costs includes not just active duty personnel, but a much larger umbrella:

  • 742,000 civilian employees
  • 826,000 National Guard and reservists
  • More than 2 million retirees and eligible family members who receive benefits

This means the Military Times report looked at healthcare costs for 4.9 million people, while the Rand study’s group was just 1.3 million, about 1/4 the size. It’s completely misleading and wrong to compare the two studies without mentioning this reality.

Additionally, in the Military Times report, they explicitly mention that out of the 1.18 million prescriptions for ED, less than 10% were for active duty troops. This was never mentioned in the Post’s analysis, but would seem quite relevant to the case. In fact, the report mentions that just $7.67 million was spent on ED for 102,885 active duty prescriptions. Not $84 million, as the Post article states.

In other words, more than 90% of the costs of ED treatments mentioned in the Military Times report were from the greater DoD, not active duty troops. This would make sense, as many of these are older individuals. At best, one could claim that the military would spend about the same on ED medication as transgender services, but it’s wrong to say 5, 8, or 10 times more. As a further caveat, there are roughly 100 times more prescriptions for ED than estimated gender transition-related treatments, meaning the costs per individual treatment are 100 times greater.

Conclusion

The claim that the Army spends 8 times more on Viagra and Cialis than on transgender services is simply wrong, and based on a faulty analysis by the Washington Post. A more reasonable estimate would be the military spends about the same on all ED treatments as they do on transgender services (though for just 1/100 the cases).

The broader claim that transgender costs are minuscule compared to the broader Defense budget seems to have merit. Assuming an average annual budget of $540 billion, the $8.4 million in gender transition-related expenditures estimated by the Rand study would be just .0015% of the total defense budget, hardly something to get excited over.

3 Comments on "No, the Military Doesn’t Spend 8 Times More on Viagra than Trans Services"

  1. 0.003 % of this country are transgender. A good percentage of the men use the sex pills.I don’t think we should pay for either one. The generals and people in command asked Trump to make this ruling because there are a lot of problems with both gay and transgenders. It wasn’t his idea and now that they have backed away from it I’m sure it will go no further.

  2. Also, if you can’t get your Little Blue Pills while at a remote FOB, it’s not going to affect your ability to function as a soldier. Going without your hormone shots will.

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