The National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP) is conducted every year to look at the reach and effectiveness of services funded by Title III of the Older Americans Act (OAA). The survey informs the use of billions of dollars for a range of supportive services for elders in the United States, and the Trump administration is proposing to eliminate one set of questions from it. Given the sweeping changes proposed by the Trump administration in programs across the federal budget, this may seem like a modest or even insignificant proposal.
However, the questions -- which were added in 2014 -- specifically assess whether and how LGBT older adults are served by these funds. That means the erasure of the questions -- and their potential to inform programs and policies -- could affect the growing group of aging people who are living with HIV.
"More than half of Americans living with HIV are over 50, and the vast majority are LGBT. So, when the federal government erases LGBT older people from publicly funded elder services, it's effectively erasing most older Americans living with HIV at the same time," said Michael Adams, CEO of Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), in an email to TheBody.com.
SAGE and their allies are calling for a robust response during the 60-day public comment period on the changes, while they are listed in the Federal Register. They say that inclusion of LGBT people in government surveys is a top priority in order to ensure they receive their "fair share" of public services.
"This is especially true for the more than 3 million LGBT older Americans, who often confront severe challenges, including intense social isolation," SAGE explains in their press release on the survey. "LGBT elders are twice as likely to live alone, twice as likely to be single, and 3-4 times less likely to have children to help care for them in their later years; many are estranged from their families of origin as a result of historical bias. LGBT elders, who suffer from the accumulated results of a lifetime of discrimination, are more likely to live in poverty than older Americans in general, and more likely to struggle with serious health conditions."
"It appears that the Trump Administration wants to make believe LGBT older people don't exist by erasing them from this critically important survey. We insist that this decision be reversed and that the federal government commit to serving all elders in need, including those who are LGBT," says Adams.
"I fear that this action could have a chilling effect on our community," said Lujira Cooper, 70, a SAGE constituent quoted in the release. "It will force people to hide. To be ashamed. To be fearful. You will have people going back into the closet. If we're not being counted, we become invisible and can't get the services we need. I work hard to survive and I deserve to live with some dignity and respect."
JD Davids is the managing editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.