A bipartisan group of senators has sent a letter calling on Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price to restore LGBTQ-related questions that were removed from two proposed HHS surveys dealing with elderly Americans and people with disabilities.
The letter, signed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the chairwoman of the U.S. Special Committee on Aging, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), the committee’s ranking member, and 17 other senators, asks HHS to bring back questions related to sexual orientation and gender identity on the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and the Centers for Independent Living Annual Program Performance Report.
In the letter, the senators note that they were “troubled” by claims made by HHS that there had been “no changes” to the NSOAAP survey, despite the removal of the LGBTQ-related demographic question.
“Older LGBT Americans, as well as LGBT persons with disabilities, face many challenges including financial insecurity, social isolation, discrimination, and barriers to access for aging and accessibility services,” the letter reads. “We are concerned that removing sexual orientation and gender identity questions on these surveys will limit HHS’s ability to address these issues.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity questions on these surveys were designed to ensure vital services were reaching vulnerable LGBT Americans,” the letter continues. “By rolling back data collection, it is possible that the needs of millions of Americans will go unmet.”
Other signatories to the letter included Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
HHS is currently accepting public comments on the proposed surveys until May 5, for the CILAPPR survey on Americans with disabilities, and until May 12 for the NSOAAP survey on elderly Americans. The former survey provides resources to ensure that people with disabilities have access to services that ensure they can live independently. The latter survey provides funding for services like home-delivered meals, transportation, home health care, and support for caregivers.