The group Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) announced earlier this week that it is launching a nationwide effort to oppose the Trump Administration’s proposed erasure of LGBT elders from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP). Specifically, SAGE opposes changes that would eliminate questions that allow the federal government to assess the extent to which LGBT older adults are receiving federally funded elder services. According to a March 13 notice in the Federal Register, those questions (which have been included in the Survey since 2014) are proposed for elimination in the 2017 Survey. This is the only change the Trump Administration proposes 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.
“Caring about our LGBT elders means making sure they have access to publicly-funded senior services, which can be literally life-saving,” said Michael Adams, Chief Executive Officer of SAGE. “Now, it appears that the Trump Administration wants to make believe LGBT older people don’t exist, by erasing them from this critically important survey. We insist that this decision be reversed and that the federal government commit to serving all elders in need, including those who are LGBT.”
The publishing of the Survey in the Federal Register opens up the exclusion of LGBT elders to public scrutiny and public comment. Per the Federal Register, the 60-day deadline to make comments on the proposed Survey and LGBT exclusion is May 12, 2017. SAGE and its many partners and allies encourage a robust response to the call for public comments.
“I fear that this action could have a chilling effect on our community,” said Lujira Cooper, 70, a SAGE constituent. “It will force people to hide. To be ashamed. To be fearful. You will have people going back into the closet. If we’re not being counted, we become invisible and can’t get the services we need. I work hard to survive and I deserve to live with some dignity and respect.”