We are proud to announce a webinar detailing notable findings from this landmark report. Join us on Friday, January 9, 2015 from 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm EST. To register for the webinar, please click here. The webinar ID is 119-423-395.
Moderated by Serena Worhington, SAGE's Director of National Field Initiatives, our panelists include:
Hop Backus, Executive Vice President, States & Communities, AARP
Masen Davis, Executive Director, Transgender Law Center
Robert Espinoza, Senior Director of Policy and Communications, SAGE
Lisa Krinsky, Director, LGBT Aging Project, The Fenway Institute
Bob Witek, CEO and Co-founder, Witek Communications
To read a copy of the report, please click here. Don't have time for the full version? Check out our Executive Summary here.
SAGE continues to lead federal efforts to improve the lives of LGBT older people, alongside our national partner organizations in the LGBT and aging fields. This summer, we collaborated with other advocates to win Medicare coverage for transgender older people, FMLA benefits for same-sex couples and an executive order that extends more protections to LGBT people. Learn more about new federal policy updates below.
Executive Order to protect LGBT Workers SAGE was privileged to be in the room with President Barack Obama on July 21, when, with the stroke of a pen, he put in place protections that will help millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. In the executive order that he signed that day, he ensured that transgender federal workers are protected against job discrimination based on gender identity. He also ensured that LGBT employees of federal contractors will be protected against discrimination, which, according to the UCLA’s William’s Institute, protects 34 million of these workers today. Many LGBT older adults, after facing a lifetime of discrimination and lower earnings across the lifespan, continue to workto maintain their economic security. We welcome the news that this generation--who fought to help many LGBT people out of “the closet”--will be able to bring their full selves to work, at more workplaces, without fear of discrimination.
Medicare Will Cover Transition-Related Care In May, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Department Appeals Board (DAB), an independent federal appeals board, ruled that Medicare must cover medically necessary care for individuals with gender dysphoria, just as it does for those with other medical conditions. In short, Medicare will now cover transition-related care for transgender older adults. SAGE applauds our advocacy partners—GLAD, the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and NCLR—for their tireless advocacy on this issue. It was a life-changing victory for transgender older adults, who are finally on a more level playing field with other Medicare recipients.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Benefits Extended to Same Sex Spouses The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take 12 weeks of leave from their jobs without pay for family and medical reasons. With the Windsor decision in place (the Supreme Court case that cleared the way for the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages), the Department of Labor (DOL) announced in August 2013 that it would recognize same-sex marriages, but only those of couples who live in a state that recognizes their marriage. In June of this year, the DOL announced a proposed “place of celebration” rule, meaning regardless of where a couple lives or moves, the DOL would recognize that same-sex marriage for FMLA purposes. If and when the rule becomes final, it would ensure that LGBT individuals who take professional leave to care for a sick spouse will enjoy job security—and a little more peace of mind.
With the Windsor decision in hand, President Obama directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review every federal law, rule, policy and practice implicating marriage. On June 20, 2014, nearly a year after the date of the Windsor decision, DOJ completed its comprehensive, year-long review, providing guidance to federal agencies on Windsor implementation. What does this mean? According to the review, all federal agencies have now implemented Windsor, meaning they are treating married same-sex and opposite-sex couples the same, to the fullest extent possible, under the law.
But what about Social Security benefits for same-sex couples? Here are a few points to help answer this complex question:
If you are married and living in a state that recognizes marriage equality, generally speaking, SSA (the Social Security Administration) will recognize your marriage.
If you are in a Civil Union or Registered Domestic Partnership and living in a state that provides those forms of relationship recognition, generally speaking, SSA is going to recognize your relationship as if you were married.
If you are married and were living in a state that recognizes marriage equality when you applied for Social Security benefits, or while your application was pending, SSA will honor your marriage even if you move.
If, however, none of the above apply (for example, if you’re married but have always been living in a state that does not recognize marriage equality), you will not receive spousal SSA benefits. For example, if you have always been living in Biloxi, Mississippi, but flew to Washington, DC, just to get married, SSA will not recognize your marriage.
One final important message on this issue: regardless of where you live, we recommend you apply for spousal Social Security benefits, as new or increased benefits will be granted retroactively. If the law changes through legislation or litigation, you should get SSA benefits retroactive to the date of your application.
Today’s post is from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE. It was originally featured on The Huffington Post. Follow Robert on Twitter.
Latino elders who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) face additional challenges as they age, compounded by barriers rooted in their racial and ethnic identities, as well as LGBT stigma and discrimination. Yet the attention and infrastructure to ameliorate these conditions is generally lacking. That's the overarching conclusion reached by the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) in a first-ever national needs assessment examining the social, economic and political realities of a growing, though multiply marginalized, population.
NCHOA’s report speaks to a timely moment. Demographics project a significant increase in Latino people and older people over the next few decades, trends rooted largely in immigration and the aging of the Baby Boom generation, respectively. For example, the U.S. Census estimates that the number of Latino people age 60 and older will sky-rocket from 4.3 million in 2010 to 22.6 million in 2050. And as societal attitudes and policy changes have made it easier for some segments of the LGBT population to "come out" and live openly, LGBT older people have become increasingly visible in both the aging and long-term care system, as well as society at large.
Yet NHCOA's new report—released in partnership with the national LGBT aging advocacy non-profit, SAGE—contends that this wave has left behind a more marginalized population: LGBT Latino elders. Based on a year's worth of expert interviews, a literature review (that tellingly emphasizes the general dearth in research on LGBT Latino people) and focus groups in four major metropolitan cities with high concentrations of Latinos and LGBT people, NHCOA paints a portrait of Latino LGBT elders aging in communities that aren't accepting of their full identities. LGBT Latinos also report both fearing and encountering biased care providers without the skills or resources to support their unique needs.
Drawing largely from published research, the report describes how many LGBT Latinos enter their later years already facing significant disparities related to physical and mental health, and to health care access and prevention. What are the major drivers of these inequities? According to the report, LGBT Latino elders face financial challenges rooted in lifetimes of discrimination in the workplace and in public benefit programs such as Medicaid and Social Security; lower educational statuses; housing instability; and reduced savings associated with a higher concentration in jobs with low-wage incomes and meager health insurance. It's not simply that LGBT Latino people are in poorer physical and economic health than their peers; it's that they have been systematically impoverished their entire lives by the same policies and institutions meant to protect them—and the effects become visceral in later life.
Perhaps the report's most profound insights are found in the testimonies of LGBT Latino elders interviewed for the report. One respondent describes the overbearing power of religious leaders in destabilizing multicultural LGBT communities: "The ones who kick you out are those who run the church. But those who are rejected believe it’s God who is throwing them out.” Another respondent describes how rejection often comes most painfully from other LGBT people: "Even in our LGBT community when there is someone who says, 'Yes, I am bisexual,' people say, 'Ay no, you are crazy or confused.' I think that there is much discrimination within our community, but as long as you don’t say who you are, things are fine.” Or perhaps the broad societal disregard of older people is the most painful renunciation, as told by one respondent: "We are persons who, because of who we are, people are not interested in."
The report's respondents also exhibit an acute analytical sense, rife with possibilities. One respondent adeptly summarizes the problem as "a lack of information and knowledge about where services are located. There is also a difficulty speaking about one’s own health, as well as a language barrier. This community is not used to speaking about its health, body or sexuality.” And another respondent offers a concise call-to-action to the aging field: "The challenge is to train in our native language the communities or the centers that, in one form or another, are going to provide those services.” The report's recommendations generally abide by this advice. It encourages policies that better fund and deliver supports to all older people (which Latino people and LGBT people disproportionately access), as well as targeted supports for LGBT Latino elders. And it firmly states that the aging field should invest in more multi-lingual, LGBT-friendly outreach, training and services for LGBT Latino older people.
One of the report's more incisive recommendations is to deepen the research on marginalized older people to better craft interventions that will become even more pressing in the ensuing decades, as people of color become the U.S. majority and sexual and gender diversity becomes more salient in civic life. On one level, this could mean better understanding the diversity within "Latino" identities, which encompasses various nationalities, histories, cultures and languages. And it means better studying difference within LGBT people to pinpoint more marginalized sub-groups—transgender people and bisexual people, as two noteworthy examples.
We can't fix what we don't fully understand, is what NHCOA's report ultimately seems to be stating. Yet this report takes us one step closer—and LGBT Latino older people deserve it.
As our LGBT population ages, research illustrates that the right to safe and affordable housing is not a guarantee. On February26, 2014, the Equal Rights Center (ERC), in partnership with SAGE, released the results of a 10-state testing-based investigation documenting differential treatment against older same-sex couples seeking housing in senior living facilities. The report, Opening Doors: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same-Sex Couples, can be read here. Among other findings, the tests showed that 48% of same-sex couples experienced at least one form of adverse differential treatment when inquiring about senior housing as compared to their heterosexual counterparts.
The report showed the following from the investigation:
Housing agents providing information about additional units being available to the tester from an opposite-sex couple;
Housing agents advising the tester from the same-sex couple about additional fees, costs, and/or a more extensive application process than were disclosed to the heterosexual tester;
Housing agents providing information about additional amenities to the testers from the opposite sex couple that were not mentioned to the tester from the same sex couple; and
Housing agents offering "specials" and discounts to the tester from the same-sex couple that were not offered to the tester from the opposite sex couple.
These results highlight the need for further research to provide additional data on housing discrimination against older LGBT adults and for policy remedies that improve housing options for LGBT older adults, no matter where they live. Read our full press release here.
In addition to this report, more LGBT housing news hit the wires, including a thoughtful piece from SAGE Senior Director of Public Policy & Communications Robert Espinoza on the right to housing and aging discrimination in the LGBT community via The Huffington Post. In addition, the New York Times released an article on the need for LGBT-specific senior housing featuring SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams. Serena Worthington, SAGE's director of community advocacy & capacity-building, is quoted in a recent piece from the BBC on thegrowth of gay retirement homes. And SAGE is featured in MSNBC's piece on LGBT housing, which focuses on the opening of the John C. Anderson Apartments in Philadelphia.
In March 2014, the ATLAH World Missionary Church in Harlem, New York City posted a sign that reads: "Jesus Would Stone Homos. … Stoning is Still the Law," among other disturbing statements. The sign has elicited controversy and concerns from members of the Harlem community, as well as from news outlets and advocates throughout New York City and around the country.
In response to the sign, SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams has responded:
"The deeply offensive and bigoted signage of the Atlah World Missionary Church is the antithesis of the Harlem community that SAGE Harlem has been a part of for the past 10 years. Throughout SAGE Harlem’s existence, we have been proud to contribute to a community that has increasingly embraced and respected its LGBT members, including LGBT elders. To see the hateful Atlah signage just two blocks from our SAGE Harlem center is deeply disturbing. At the same time, we are reassured by the knowledge that this is a fringe group that does not represent the sentiments of the vast majority of Harlem community organizations and residents. In the face of this verbal assault on the human dignity of LGBT people, SAGE and SAGE Harlem will redouble our commitment to contributing to a Harlem community where all are welcome regardless of their sexual orientations or gender identities.
Since 2004, SAGE Harlem has helped ensure that LGBT elders in Harlem, East Harlem and the Bronx can benefit from culturally and linguistically appropriate services. Located in the historic former Theresa Hotel, SAGE Harlem offers bilingual information, referrals, services, programming, educational presentations and social activities for older LGBT residents in the community, and partners with local social service providers to expand access for LGBT consumers and sensitivity to their issues.
It’s time once again for the American Society on Aging’s 2014 Aging in America Conference, which begins tomorrow in lovely San Diego! After a winter of weather extremes, I am guessing that many of the attendees are looking forward to thawing out. As a Chicagoan at the tail end of our third coldest winter in history, I am grateful to the conference organizers for their choice of a temperate Southern California location. Good job guys!
Hosted by the American Society on Aging (ASA), Aging in America is the nation’s largest aging conference with 2,500 professional presenting over 500 workshops over five days. For updates from ASA, check out their Facebook page and follow them @asaging. Congratulations to ASA on their 60th anniversary of “supporting the commitment and enhancing the knowledge and skills of those who seek to improve the quality of life of older adults and their families.”
Between now and March 15th, SAGE staff members are involved in 14 of the more than 41 conference workshops, poster sessions, and peer sessions related to LGBT issues, HIV and aging, policy, and sexuality. For a list of all of the sessions on these topics, check out this handy dandy guide complied by ASA.
Breaking news! SAGE's National Resource Center on LGBT Aging (NRC) has been chosen as one of the Top 5 Nominees in LGBTQ rights for the Annual CLASSY Awards. The Annual CLASSY Awards (The CLASSY's) are the largest social impact awards ceremony in the United States, highlighting the greatest champions of social progress. The CLASSY's nominees represent an elite pool of high impact organizations that are driving measurable social change around the world. They are selected through an intensive evaluation process and the winners are announced on May 3. Read more about all the nominees here and read what they have to say about SAGE.
"I am thrilled that the NRC is being recognized as a finalist nominee in the Annual CLASSY Awards," said Hilary Meyer, Director of National Programs at SAGE and head of the NRC. "We have always been proud of the strength of our program and being in this class of competition illustrates how far we've come in just four years."
SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging provides training for service providers on how to provide culturally competent care to LGBT older adults; creates and synthesizes hundreds of articles, publications and multimedia pieces on its dynamic website; and provides technical assistance on issues related to LGBT aging. Since its inception in 2010, the Center has served thousands of providers, LGBT people and caregivers, been cited in numerous news outlets from NPR to the New York Times, and continues to show quantifiable results in changing the landscape of LGBT aging.
Today's guest post is from Deirdre Downes, Corporate Director of Social Work Initiatives at Jewish Home Lifecare (JHL). JHL received the Aging Services Leadership Award at the 2013 SAGE Awards and will be honoring Edie Windsor next week.
The 165-year-old nonprofit provider of eldercare services has been working hard to become a place where LGBT elders can live openly and proudly, knowing that they will be treated with complete respect at all times.
The issue is critical. A 2011 survey by the National Senior Citizens Law Center revealed that fewer than 25% of LGBT older adults felt they could be open about their identities with the staff of their long-term care facilities.
Things are very different at Jewish Home Lifecare.
That Jewish Home's "cultural competency" is already in a good place is clear from its plans for a new residence that will open in 2018. The residence is being developed as a GREEN HOUSE® facility, meaning that the focus, in design and operation, will be on dignity and autonomy for all residents in all things. Green House facilities operate as collections of small, nurturing households (apartments), each with individual bedrooms/baths clustered around a shared living/dining space. Among the 22 households in the new facility will be an all-LGBT apartment that LGBT adults can opt for if they wish – the first time this option is being offered in a NYC skilled nursing facility.
Long overlooked, aging LGBT adults face distinct challenges. Most live alone, they are less likely to have partners or adult children to care for them and advocate on their behalf, and they often face discrimination in health insurance, medical care, social services, and housing. Unlike married heterosexual couples, LGBT elders living in nursing homes do not usually have the right to stay in the same room.