By Valerie Ploumpis, National Policy Director
Last September, the Department of Health & Human Service (HHS)’s Administration for Community Living (ACL) proposed a new ‘longitudinal’ survey of older adults and people with disabilities in order to better measure the efficacy of federally-funded aging programs.
In the ACL’s first survey draft, questions related to sexual orientation and gender identity had been dropped. Equality California and a number of progressive and LGBTQ civil rights organizations submitted public comments urging HHS to restore these key demographic questions. When the second draft was released, it did in fact include a question on sexual orientation — but not one about gender identity.
In response to this second draft, Equality California submitted a new set of public comments, this time calling on the Trump Administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to withhold final approval of the survey unless and until a question on gender identity is included.
The issue of data collection on transgender people is not academic. Low-income transgender older adults are arguably the most vulnerable segment of our LGBTQ community — the ones who most need safety net programs like Meals on Wheels, family caregiver support, adult daycare, and senior centers to cover their basic needs.
According to “Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Older Adults,” an important study by the Movement Advancement Project and SAGE, an appalling 50% of transgender seniors live at or below 200% of the federal poverty line. The MAP-SAGE report also found that almost one third of transgender people say that they don’t know who will care for them when they are unable to manage their own needs and approximately two thirds fear their access to healthcare will be limited as they get older.
Equality California will continue to advocate on behalf of our older transgender community. A full and accurate count is the first step to ensuring that their unique needs are met and that all older Americans can live secure and independent lives.