Thursday, August 29, 2013 6:19 pm
Convicted Wikileaks soldier doing well in prison
By DAVID DISHNEAU and MICHELLE R. SMITHAssociated Press
David Coombs wrote that he spoke on Wednesday with Manning, previously known as Bradley Manning, while she goes through the three-to-four-week period known as indoctrination at the Kansas prison. Coombs, who lives in Rhode Island, also said he plans to travel there in the coming weeks to meet with medical staff and the leadership in the quest to allow Manning to receive hormone therapy and other treatment for her gender dysphoria - the sense of being a woman trapped in a man's body.
Coombs went on the "Today" show last week, a day after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for giving government secrets to WikiLeaks, to announce that Manning wants to live as a woman named Chelsea and begin hormone treatment as soon as possible.
"These requests address a serious medical need of Chelsea and are consistent with the general medical community's practice of adequate medical care for those with gender dysphoria," Coombs wrote.
It is Army policy not to provide such treatment; soldiers diagnosed with gender dysphoria are administratively discharged. But Manning cannot be discharged until he completes his prison sentence and exhausts all appeals of his court-martial findings.
When asked by The Associated Press on Thursday whether Manning has yet requested treatment, Coombs said in an email it was too soon to provide additional information. He told the AP earlier in the week that if the Army refuses to pay for it, Manning would pay, but it is not clear whether the prison will allow that.
Army Medical Command spokeswoman Maria Tolleson said soldiers are allowed on a case-by-case basis to pay for procedures not covered by the military's medical insurance program, such as elective cosmetic surgery. Manning was diagnosed with gender dysphoria by two Army behavioral health specialists before his trial, but Tolleson said in an email that patient medical records are reviewed and prisoners are re-evaluated when they move to a new facility. She said Army providers use nationally recognized standards found in the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
Coombs wrote on his blog that he told Manning during their conversation Wednesday of the public's response to the "Today" show announcement, and of the decision by several news organizations, including AP, to refer to her by her new name.
"Chelsea was very happy to hear of these developments. She requested that I relay how grateful that she is for everyone's understanding and continued support," Coombs wrote.
Coombs also said Manning has already made some new friends at the prison "who accept her for who she is."
Smith reported from Providence, R.I.