HHS Rolls Back LGBT Data Collection

Published Mar 1, 2017

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stopped including questions about LGBT people in two surveys.

What happened: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stopped including questions about LGBT people in two surveys that provide data used in shaping services for elderly and disabled Americans. 

Why it matters: What we don't know can hurt us. By reducing the amount of information policymakers have about LGBT people, HHS has made it harder to ensure that policies are effectively serving them. 

In March, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) discontinued the inclusion of questions about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals in two surveys. One of the two surveys, the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, seeks information from LGBT citizens who receive support as part of the Older Americans Act (OAA), legislation that allows for grants to States for community planning and social services, research and development projects, and personnel training in the field of aging. The OAA also provides for delivery of social and nutrition services to this group and their caregivers. The second survey, the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living, collects information on services provided to disabled people to help them live independently. A revised draft of this survey that was released four days after President Trump’s inauguration did include a question on sexual orientation, but this question was deleted in a newer version of the survey and was the only notable change.

The Administration for Community Living (ACL) claims that they withdrew sexual orientation questions from the survey because prior sample sizes of LGBT persons were insufficient for analysis, but many LGBT advocates are saying that this is a direct attack on this minority group. Laura Durso, vice president of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress said, “In an age when LGBT rights are such a part of the national discussion, the Trump administration is choosing to not only ignore us but erase us from the discussion.” And the Human Rights Campaign expressed concern about the lack of data collection being a strategy by the administration to roll back LGBT rights, “If you deny the problem exists by not having the data, it certainly makes it easier to pursue the policy you prefer without regards to reality.” Indeed, if the data doesn’t exist then it is impossible to know if LGBT persons are effectively receiving these services from HHS.