STATEMENT: Following Widespread Backlash, HHS Reverses Course and Restores Sexual Orientation Question to Key Survey, Says CAP’s Laura E. Durso

Washington, D.C. — Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) announced yesterday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reversed its proposal to eliminate questions about LGBT Americans from a key survey of HHS program recipients, the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants. The Center for American Progress, along with its partner Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), broke the news that HHS planned to erase LGBT people from the survey in March. HHS received more than 13,900 comments on its proposal to remove questions about LGBT people, the overwhelming majority of which urged HHS to include questions about LGBT program recipients.

Laura E. Durso, vice president of CAP’s LGBT Research and Communications Project, issued the following statement:

Following widespread backlash and an outpouring of public comments, the Department of Health and Human Services has reversed its decision to exclude questions about LGBT Americans from a key survey of older adults. This a clear victory for advocates who loudly protested the administration’s attempt to erase our community and hamper progress. The administration has a responsibility to ensure that social service programs are serving LGBT people equally—and that’s impossible without robust, quality data on LGBT older adults and the barriers to meeting basic living standards. However, we remain very concerned that the survey still fails to include a single question about gender identity; transgender older adults are highly vulnerable to economic insecurity, discrimination, and social isolation, and we must ensure that our social programs meet their needs too.

The National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants is one of the country’s most important tools for assessing the needs of older Americans who receive social support and nutritional programs such as Meals on Wheels, caregiver support, and senior centers. Older LGBT Americans face acute levels of economic insecurity, social isolation, and discrimination and rely on the services provided by the federal government. Without data assessing their needs, they could be effectively ignored by their own government.

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