Secretary of Defense Hagel: I am open to 'reviewing' military ban on transgender soldiers

On This Week with George Stephanopoulos this morning, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told Martha Raddatz that he would like to see the current ban on transgender individuals in the United States military "reviewed."

"I do think it continually should be reviewed,” Hagel told Raddatz.

"I’m open to those assessments, because — again, I go back to the bottom line — every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it," he continued.

The "Don't Ask, Don't Policy" that was revoked in 2010 does not apply directly to transgender soldiers, who if discovered, can still be dismissed without question.

Hagel noted that the question of transgender service is "more complicated" because it is a "medical issue." A post-operative transgender individual could be prohibited from entering the military because he or she had gender reassignment surgery -- or, if the individual identifies with a gender other than the one he or she was born with, the military could disqualify the individual on mental health grounds.

Once in the service, a transgender individual would face numerous conduct regulations that would make it difficult -- if not impossible -- to transition. The strict uniform and grooming regulations are organized by gender, and any perceived attempt at "cross-dressing" would be a violation of those regulations.

An advisory panel based at San Francisco State University and featuring former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders and Rear Admiral Alan Steinman concluded that "there is no compelling medical reason for the ban, but also that the ban itself is an expensive, damaging and unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel who serve currently in the active, Guard and reserve components."

Moreover, the panel argued, medical regulations "requiring the discharge of transgender personnel are inconsistent with how the military regulates all other medical and psychological conditions, and transgender-related conditions appear to be the only gender-related conditions that require discharge irrespective of fitness for duty."

Watch the interview with Hagel via ABC below.

ABC US News | ABC Entertainment News

[Image via AFP]