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Military should review transgender ban, defense secretary says

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the military should continually review its policy barring transgender individuals from serving in the military.

Hagel did not indicate whether he believes the policy should be overturned. However, Hagel said every qualified American who wants to serve the country should have that opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do the job.

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Transgender individuals have a sexual identity that is not clearly male or female. A panel convened by a think tank at San Francisco State University recently estimated that about 15,450 transgender personnel serve in the military and in the National Guard and Reserves.

In 2010, Congress passed legislation allowing gays to serve openly. Hagel said the issue of transgender serving in the military is more complicated.

He also said he supports beleaguered Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, but added that the care the VA offers veterans is ‘‘not good enough.’’

Shinseki is a retired four-star general and Vietnam veteran who has come under criticism since reports surfaced that as many as 40 veterans died while waiting for medical care from the VA hospital in Phoenix. Veterans have also waited years in some cases to collect benefits from the administration. The American Legion and some in Congress have called for Shinseki’s ouster.

Hagel said that problems with the VA began well before Shinseki took over the agency. But he said that if the allegations in Phoenix are true, ‘‘accountability is going to have to be upheld.’’

Hagel spoke on ABC’s ‘‘This Week.’’

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