Chelsea Manning Goes Free on Wednesday; Keeps Her Govt Health Benefits to Pay For Sex Change

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 8:37 am, May 15, 2017

Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing hundreds of thousands of classified records to Wikileaks, will leave an all-male military prison Wednesday after President Obama commuted her sentence—and when she does, she will remain on unpaid active duty, with full health benefits.

Manning is appealing her court-martial conviction, and until then, she is “statutorily entitled to medical care while on excess leave in an active duty status,” an Army spokesman told USAToday.

Manning was convicted of leaking more than 700,000 sensitive U.S. documents to Julian Assange’s Wikileaks.  (Photo credit should read STEFFI LOOS/AFP/Getty Images)If Manning loses that appeal, she would be dishonorably discharged and would lose health benefits.

Incarcerated as a male named Bradley Manning, Chelsea announced in 2013 that she would begin transitioning to a female.

Manning sued for access to hormone treatment, which the military approved in 2015, also acknowledging her as a woman. She also went on a hunger strike last year before the Army agreed to provide her with gender-reassignment surgery.

Chelsea Manning

The treatment, which can cost as much as $50,000 and will be paid for by the government, the Military Times reported.

Manning twice tried to commit suicide in prison. In a statement last week, she spoke of the struggles of “nearly seven years of bars and cement, of periods of solitary confinement, and of my health care and autonomy restricted, including through routinely forced haircuts.”

In a statement, Manning’s attorney said that “like far too many people in prison, particularly transgender women,” his client had survived “unthinkable violence throughout the seven years of her incarceration.”

President Obama defended his decision in January, saying her punishment had been disproportionate and that she had served “a tough prison sentence.”

Trump has slammed the commutation of Manning’s sentence, calling her “an ungrateful TRAITOR… who should never have been released from prison.”

Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.