Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ranking Member Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and 17 other senators sent a letter today calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to restore survey questions that assess whether key programs meet the needs of older Americans and people with disabilities within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
HHS’s proposal for the most recent National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and the Centers for Independent Living Annual Program Performance Report deleted questions on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the letter, the senators expressed concern that HHS falsely stated that the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants remained unchanged from last year.
Removing sexual orientation and gender identity questions from the surveys would limit HHS’s ability to address challenges facing the LGBT community. Older LGBT adults and LGBT persons with disabilities face challenges including financial insecurity, social isolation, discrimination, and barriers to access for aging and accessibility services.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity questions on these surveys were designed to ensure that vital services were reaching vulnerable LGBT Americans,” the senators wrote. “By rolling back data collection, it is possible that the needs of millions of Americans will go unmet.
“We urge you to restore sexual orientation and gender identity questions on the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants as well as the Centers for Independent Living Annual Program Performance Report survey.”
HHS is currently accepting public comments on the proposed surveys, Centers for Independent Living Annual Program Performance Report until May 5, and National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants until May 12. The senators have requested a briefing from HHS on the decision to delete sexual orientation and gender identity questions on these surveys.
The Older Americans Act provides funding for services such as home-delivered meals, transportation, home care, and caregiver support in addition to programs designed to serve people with disabilities including skills training and counseling. The Centers for Independent Living provide resources to ensure that people with disabilities can live independently in their homes and communities.
The following senators also signed on to the letter: Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).