Center on the Issues: LGBT Elders

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Last week, the Trump Administration proposed erasure of LGBT elders from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP). Specifically, the changes 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.

Inclusion of LGBT people in government surveys has been 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.

“In our work in providing services and resources for LGBT elders here at Center on Halsted, that means advocating for their well-being and making sure they have access to publicly-funded senior services,” said Britta Larson, Director of Senior Services at Center on Halsted. “Their inclusion in this survey is integral to the success of our LGBT community as a whole.”

Yesterday, Senior Voice, a discussion and advocacy group of older adults at Center on Halsted met to discuss the erasure of the questions of the survey. George Garcia is a patron of the Senior Program, is provided employment at Center on Halsted through the Senior Community Service Employment Program, and lives in Town Hall Apartments, Center on Halsted’s LGBT Affordable Housing Project.

“My life has been enriched and supported because of the work of LGBT-specific senior services,” said George. “Erasing our presence and eliminating funding forces us to become more invisible than we already are and thus we can’t get the services we need. I don’t know where I would be without the support I have received.”

Here is what you can do:

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. Center on Halsted encourages a robust response to the call for public comments.

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