Blog

HRC Marks Victory for Older LGB Americans; HHS to Restore Sexual Orientation Question in Key Survey

Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration on Community Living (ACL) proposed a single change to the 2017 National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP) —the removal of a question relating to sexual orientation.  After receiving more than 14,000 comments, including 4,800 from HRC members and supporters — the vast majority urging that LGBTQ seniors be counted — the agency announced it would retain the question to help assess the needs of older LGB Americans.

There are an estimated 1.5 million LGBTQ seniors living in America today, and this number is estimated to double by 2030. LGBTQ older adults are extremely vulnerable and face the challenges of age and illness often without the traditional support systems and legal protections other seniors take for granted. Studies have also shown that LGBTQ older adults are more likely to rely on community and governmental supports like those provided by the Older Americans Act than their straight counterparts due to this absence of family and the reliance on peer support networks. Comprehensive, uniform data collection is an essential tool to ensure that LGBTQ seniors have equal access to the federal programs and services that they’re entitled to. 

In addition to collecting comments from our members and supporters, HRC submitted formal organizational comments highlighting the well-established Departmental and institutional support for increased data collection on LGBTQ older adults and directly calling into question ACL’s response to inquiries in the days after the removal.

U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Ranking Member Bob Casey, Special Committee on Aging Chairman Susan Collins and 17 other Senators also wrote to HHS objecting to the removal of the survey’s sexual orientation question. Restoring the question, Casey said in a statement, “will help ensure that federal resources best serve the needs of older LGBT Americans.” Additionally, U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch, Mark Pocan and 48 House members wrote a similar letter urging the department to reverse course.

HRC partnered with SAGE and others on this important effort and will continue to urge ACL to include a data question regarding gender identity.