Last week, Representatives Patrick Murphy (D-FL), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), and Ted Deutch (D-FL) introduced the Ruthie and Connie LGBT Elder Americans Act (H.R. 3793), legislation to expand the Older Americans Act (OAA) to improve services available for older lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) adults.
Today, there are an estimated 1.5 million LGBT seniors in America and that number is expected to double by 2030. As LGBT adults enter their later years, they are forced to navigate a series of unique and complex barriers. Discrimination in housing, employment, and healthcare has made many LGBT older adults subject to an increased risk for social isolation and higher poverty rates. This legislation recognizes LGBT seniors as a vulnerable population, which will open the door for organizations to obtain grants targeted to improve health and long-term care services for elders in the LGBT community. This is consistent with guidance published by the Administration on Aging in 2012 clarifying that LGBT older adults are a a population of "greatest social need" for purposes of AoA-funded programs.
To ensure that families, caregivers, and health providers have ready access to resources about aging and the unique needs of LGBT people, the legislation permanently establishes the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. It also requires the Assistant Secretary for Aging to oversee data collection on LGBT older adults, their service needs, and to assess the effectiveness of the state agencies on aging and the Area Agencies on Aging in targeting services to LGBT older adults.
The bill is named for Ruthie and Connie, who successfully sued the New York City Board of Education for domestic partner benefits in 1988, and have continued as trailblazers in the LGBT community. A companion measure, the LGBT Elder Americans Act (S. 1765) was introduced in July by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). We are working with our allies in the House and Senate to move this important legislation during the 114th Congress.