By Dr. Yanira Cruz, National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) Executive Committee member and President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)
The first 100 days of the Trump administration have been a cause for concern among many Hispanic older adults and their families. While our attention has been understandably focused on the new administration’s anti-immigrant policies, its efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act, and its proposed cuts for programs seniors rely on, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has quietly taken a step toward erasing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seniors from a key survey that helps HHS ensure its programs for seniors are reaching everyone and serving them well.
For the past three years, the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, conducted by HHS, has included LGBT-related questions so that when analyzing the results of the survey, policymakers and service providers could get a better sense of the particular barriers and discrimination that LGBT elders face when it comes to accessing the important services they need in order to age in dignity.
Last month, HHS revealed that they would cease to ask any LGBT-related questions in the survey. This is serious because there is already a paucity of data on LGBT elders generally, and LGBT Hispanic elders in particular. And we know from our own research, released last fall, that many LGBT Hispanic older adults face both racial/ethnic and LGBT-based discrimination that prevents them from accessing quality housing and jobs, leading to greater poverty. This leads them to rely even more on the services of the Older Americans Act, such as meals, transportation, caregiver support, and senior centers.
By failing to collect data on LGBT Hispanic older adults’ experiences, their struggles become invisible. Without data to illustrate a problem, it’s tremendously difficult for non-governmental service providers to identify where the greatest needs are, and it becomes nearly impossible to push government to serve those populations.
It’s no surprise that HHS, now led by Donald Trump’s appointee, Tom Price, chose to erase LGBT elders from its data collection. Price has a long record of opposing LGBT equality, which was one of the reasons why the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, of which the National Hispanic Council on Aging is a member, opposed his nomination.
We know that Donald Trump and Tom Price won’t change their minds on their own, which is why we’re joining forces with Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) to raise our voices in demanding that HHS add LGBT questions back into its survey of older adults. We only have until May 12 to influence this year’s survey, so join us and make your voice heard today! Because everyone, at every stage of life, deserves to be counted, heard, and treated with respect.