BY CHRIS JOHNSON, WASHINGTON BLADE
A group of 49 U.S. House members this week called on the Department of Health & Health Services to restore questions allowing responders to identify as gay, lesbian of bisexual to a federal survey for elders.
The letter, dated May 11, says the questions must be restored to the the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, or NSOAAP, because the survey examines whether services such as meal home delivery and caregiver support are reaching all elders.
“LGBT seniors deserve to have their specific needs examined,” the letter says. “To erase LGBT demographic questions from the NSOAAP is to pretend the needs of older LGBT Americans do not exist. Indeed, it is to pretend that LGBT older Americans do not exist.”
Much to the dismay of LGBT advocacy groups, the Trump administration indicated in March it would remove questions seeking to identify the sexual orientation of respondents from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, or NSOAAP. (A Federal Register notice indicating the survey would not be changed, although an examination of proposals reveals the questions are removed.)
At the time, HHS said the LGBT questions were part of a pilot test and removed because the sample response “has not been sufficient enough to date to allow for reliability and reporting.”
The lead for the letter was Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), chair of the LGBT Aging Issues Task Force, who said in a statement “it’s important to recognize the unique needs of LGBT seniors” in the effort to fight for LGBT rights.
“Older LGBT Americans often face new levels of discrimination as they age and struggle with higher than average levels of poverty and social isolation,” Deutch said. “Federally funded programs should not contribute to this terrible homophobic and transphobic culture. We need the data from these surveys to better ensure that LGBT seniors are receiving the care they need and deserve, without prejudice.”
The letter is signed by four of the six openly LGB members of Congress: Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.). Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), who’s gay, and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who’s bisexual, didn’t sign it. The bipartisan letter is also signed by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), an LGBT-supportive Republican.
The letter is similar a different one last month led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) that was signed by 19 senators urging HHS to restore the question to the survey.
The Washington Blade has placed a request in HHS seeking comment on the letter.