Anyone who has dealt with paperwork required by the federal government knows that red tape is the name of the game. Even a simple name change in federal records can mean filling out a number of official forms.
For transgender individuals, all that really is required to reflect an important aspect of their lifestyle on official documents is a change of the letter "M" to "F" or vice versa. Previously, however, the Social Security Administration required transgender individuals to submit proof of surgical gender reassignment before gender designation would be changed in their records.
In June, the SSA announced a new policy change that will help protect the privacy of individuals who identify as transgender and will also eliminate some of the red tape associated with a change of gender designation. Now, all that will be required for transgender individuals to change their gender designation is a letter from their doctor affirming that they have undergone "treatment for gender transition" without going into the details of what that treatment entails, whether it be surgery or some other clinical approach.
This new policy puts the SSA more in line with the philosophy many other regulatory agencies take toward transgender individuals. It is seen by many as a step toward equality and respect for privacy. And, while the policy change will not affect the majority of Social Security recipients or applicants, any change that pares back the web of red tape entangling the Social Security Administration is probably a good thing in terms of keeping the process moving for those who need benefits.
Source: Towle Road, Social Security Administration Makes Strides in Transgender Rights, Removes Surgical Requirements, Joseph Ehrman-Dupre, June 17, 2013