A bipartisan group of 76 U.S. House members is calling on the White House to restore to a federal health survey for elders a question the Trump administration has struck out allowing them to identify as transgender.
In a letter dated July 21 and led by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), chair of the LGBT Aging Issues Task Force, lawmakers call on the White House Office of Management & Budget to reinstate the question in the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, or NSOAAP.
“We have to ensure we are meeting the needs of the most vulnerable among us,” Deutch said in a statement. “Study after study has shown that transgender older adults face greater social isolation, food insecurity and disparate health impacts. It is cruel to remove a previously included transgender-specific demographic question and, in essence, send a message to transgender seniors that their needs are not important.”
Earlier this year, the Administration on Community Living at the Department of Health & Human Services indicated it would eliminated from the NSOAAP questions allowing LGBT elders to identify their sexual orientation and gender identity. Amid pressure from LGBT rights supporters, HHS agreed to restore the sexual orientation, but kept out a question allowing elders to identify as transgender.
NSOAAP is a survey that evaluates whether the billions of dollars in HHS funding for programs assisting older Americans is being effectively. LGBT advocates have said the questions on sexual orientation and gender identity, which first appeared in the survey in 2014, has yielded important data on whether these resources have reached LGBT elders.
A survey conducted this year by the Movement Advancement Project and Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders, titled “Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Older Adults,” found transgender elders report significant rates of discrimination. Twenty-five percent of transgender elders say they’ve faced discrimination based on their gender identity and nearly half live at 200 percent of the federal poverty line or lower.
“The current noticed version of NSOAAP erases the experience and challenges faced by the transgender community for no discernable reason,” the letter says. “Keeping one additional question in a more than 100-page survey can hardly be viewed as a burden. Simply restoring this demographic question will go far to ensuring the purpose of OAA, ensuring older Americans are able to live out their golden years with dignity and support, is fulfilled.”
Among the signers of the letter of are co-chairs of the LGBT Equality Caucus: Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.). The sole Republican signer is Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).
A White House Office of Management & Budget spokesperson said in response to the letter the office historically “does not comment on matters that are under review.”