Media Advisory: Trump Administration Proposes to End Important Data Collection on LGBT Elders and People with Disabilities

Media Advisory: March 20, 2017

Media Contact:
Noel Alumit, alumit@law.ucla.edu
Office: 310-794-2332
Cell: 323-828-5554

Trump Administration Proposes to End Important Data Collection on LGBT Elders and People with Disabilities

Los Angeles—The Administration for Community Living (ACL) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is proposing to remove a sexual orientation question from the 2017 version of the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and sexual orientation and gender identity fields from the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living.

“ACL’s mission is to provide programs and services that maximize the independence, well-being, and health of older adults and people with disabilities,” said Dr. Kerith Conron, Research Director of the Williams Institute.  “By removing these questions, ACL will blind itself to the experiences and needs of LGBT elders and people with disabilities.”

The National Survey of Older American Act Participants is an annual survey conducted by ACL that provides critical feedback on programs funded by Title III of the Older Americans Act, including meal programs and transportation services.  Prior versions of this survey included a question on sexual orientation—among other personal demographic characteristics—but ACL is now proposing to remove only the sexual orientation question and has not explained its reason for doing so.

Centers for Independent Living are federally-funded programs to promote the ability of people with disabilities to live independently.  Each year, Centers for Independent Living complete program performance reports that allow ACL to assess whether they are achieving their objectives and are in compliance with the Rehabilitation Act.  In January 2017, ACL published a draft of the Annual Program Performance Report that included a section on clientele demographics that included—among other personal characteristics—sexual orientation and transgender identity.  These data would have allowed Centers for Independent Living, as well as ACL, to determine whether LGBT people with disabilities were accessing services.  ACL, however, now has removed the sexual orientation and transgender identity fields without explanation.

Data collection by ACL on the experiences and needs of LGBT elders and people with disabilities is all the more crucial given that research finds that many LGBT elders and people with disabilities are isolated, have experienced and fear further discrimination, and face health disparities.  For example, in LGBT Aging: A Review of Research Findings, Needs, and Policy Implications, Williams Institute researchers Soon Kyu Choi and Ilan H. Meyer, Ph.D., reviewed what is known about LGBT older adults.

Key findings of the report include:

  • It is estimated that 2.4 million LGBT older adults over 50 live in the United States.  That number is expected to double by 2030.
  • Compared to heterosexual cisgender adults, LGBT older adults have fewer options for informal care. LGBT older adults are more likely to be single or living alone and less likely to have children to care for them than non-LGBT elders.
  • Financial instability and legal issues are major concerns among LGBT seniors. Lifetime disparities in earnings, employment, and opportunities to build savings as well as discriminatory access to legal and social programs that are traditionally established to support aging adults, put LGBT older adults at greater financial risk than their non-LGBT peers.
  • LGBT older adults have experienced and continue to experience discrimination due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.  Studies find LGBT older adults experienced high rates of lifetime discrimination and physical and verbal abuse in relation to their sexual and gender minority identity.
  • LGBT older adults have worse mental and physical health compared to heterosexual and cisgender older adults due to disproportionate exposure to victimization and stigma.
  • LGBT older adults face barriers to receiving formal health care and social support that heterosexual cisgender adults do not. Several studies report LGBT older adults avoid or delay health care, or conceal their sexual and gender identity from health providers and social service professionals, for fear of discrimination due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.