The Trump Administration has proposed eliminating LGBT elders and LGBT people with disabilities from key federal surveys, removing the federal government’s ability to assess the effectiveness and extent of the federally funded services they receive. Here’s what you can do to help stop this erasure.
I’m turning 50 this year. My spouse is five years older. Even though I write mostly about parenting, elder issues are on the horizon for me personally—and I know that for many LGBTQ people, parents and non-parents alike, they are even more immediate.
That’s why I’m angered that the Trump Administration has proposed eliminating questions about sexual orientation and gender identity from the from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP). These questions are the only way for the federal government to assess the extent to which LGBT older adults are receiving federally funded elder services, Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) tells us. A March 13 notice in the Federal Register indicates that those questions, which have been included since 2014, are proposed for elimination in the 2017 Survey. This is the only change the Trump Administration proposes to the Survey.
If that wasn’t enough, the Center for American Progress (CAP) notes that “Despite the fact that LGBT people have been erased from the survey, the notice announcing the proposed survey alleges that ‘no changes’ were made to the survey.”
This annual survey is conducted by the federal government to evaluate the effectiveness of programs funded under Title III of the Older Americans Act, including who is being served by such programs. Results from the survey are used to determine how to direct billions of dollars toward older people’s needs through publicly funded senior centers, home-delivered meals, family caregiver support, transportation, and other key supports.
Community advocates have made inclusion of LGBT people in government surveys a top priority as a way of ensuring that they are counted and that those in need receive their fair share of taxpayer-funded services. This is especially true for the more than 3 million LGBT older Americans, who often confront severe challenges, including intense social isolation. LGBT elders are twice as likely to live alone, twice as likely to be single, and 3-4 times less likely to have children to help care for them in their later years; many are estranged from their families of origin as a result of historical bias. LGBT elders, who suffer from the accumulated results of a lifetime of discrimination, are more likely to live in poverty than older Americans in general, and more likely to struggle with serious health conditions.
CAP also informs us that the Trump administration has proposed removing questions on LGBT identities from the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living. This Report helps the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “evaluate the effectiveness and equity of programs designed to serve people with disabilities and ensure they can live independently in their homes and communities.” Questions about sexual orientation and gender identity were included in a proposed draft of this report in January 2017, CAP says, but a revised version this month omits these questions. HHS Secretary Tom Price has an anti-LGBT track record.
Survey data may seem ancillary to many other issues facing LGBT Americans, but as CAP writes:
Data on LGBT program recipients could reveal disparities in how these HHS programs—which provide a critical safety net for to seniors and people with disabilities—serve LGBT people, potentially indicating discrimination or other barriers to access in the programs. By rolling back data collection, the Department of Health and Human Services is throwing away the tools to ensure the department reaches vulnerable LGBT people in programs ranging from home delivered meals and senior center group meals, to transportation, caregiver support, and health promotion services.
SAGE is calling for a “robust response” to the proposed changes. Send a message to the Trump Administration here, and/or submit a formal comment on the proposed NSOAAP changes, which by law are open for 60 days of public comment, here, before May 12, 2017.