WASHINGTON — Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier and convicted national security secret leaker, will remain an active-duty, unpaid soldier, eligible for health care and other benefits, following her scheduled release May 17 from military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, according to the Army.
Manning entered prison as a man named Bradley. Manning changed her name, identified as a woman and received hormone treatment while incarcerated. Her sentence was commuted in the final days of the Obama administration, a move that infuriated some in the military and President Trump.
While Manning’s court-martial conviction remains under appeal, she will remain a private in the Army, said Dave Foster, an Army spokesman. As an active duty soldier, Manning will continue to receive health care and have access to commissaries and military exchanges, but she will not be paid.
“Pvt. Manning is statutorily entitled to medical care while on excess leave in an active duty status, pending final appellate review,” Foster said.
The Army refused to disclose the other terms of Manning’s release, six years before her eligibility for parole, citing privacy concerns. She had been sentenced to 35 years for releasing hundreds of thousands of secret documents to WikiLeaks. Manning appeared at court martial in the uniform of an enlisted man.
Like all soldiers, Manning will be assigned to an Army post but it is unclear where and to whom she will report.
The ACLU released a statement on Manning’s behalf on May 9. “For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea,” Manning said. “I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world.
Claims of abuse
Her lawyer, Chase Strangio, added in the ACLU statement that Manning had been abused at Leavenworth but did not specify the type of abuse.
“Like far too many people in prison, particularly transgender women, Chelsea Manning has had to survive unthinkable violence throughout the seven years of her incarceration,” Manning said.
Trump, in his first days in office, blasted Obama’s decision to release Manning from prison early, and Manning for criticizing the former president. Manning had written a column, saying Obama had failed to live up to his promises.
“Ungrateful TRAITOR Chelsea Manning, who should never have been released from prison, is now calling President Obama a weak leader. Terrible” Trump tweeted.
While in prison Manning had received hormone treatment and care for gender dysphoria. She had also been informed that she was eligible for sex reassignment surgery to be paid for by the government. However, if the appeal of her conviction is denied, she could be dishonorably discharged, which mandates a loss of benefits including health care.
Manning’s fight for treatment in military prison made her a cause celebre among transgender advocates. She announced the change in her name and announced, “I am a female,” in a statement read on her behalf in 2013 on national television
Efforts to boost transgender rights culminated last summer in the Pentagon’s decision to rescind the ban on service for troops who identified as the opposite gender. In the months that followed, more than 100 troops came forward requesting treatment for gender dysphoria. Estimates show there are as many as 6,000 transgender troops among the 1.3 million active-duty service members.
Manning, who has a Twitter account managed by her supporters, said she was looking forward to her release. “Celebrating a new hope, and a return of the sun.”
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