Though President Donald Trump’s administration apparently doesn’t want to gather information about gay seniors, Maine’s senior senator does.

Without explanation, the Department of Health and Human Services recently dropped questions about sexual orientation and gender identity from two key surveys of older Americans — a move that would make it impossible for officials to determine if older gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were experiencing problems specific to them.

Worried that “the needs of millions of Americans will go unmet” because the federal surveys no longer seeks the data, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is pressing the Trump administration to restore the question.

In an April 27 letter signed by 18 other senators, the Maine Republican also demanded that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price explain the decision to drop the question from the two surveys.

Collins isn’t the only one seeking to reverse the decision by Price, who has long been at odds with the gay community.

“Caring about our LGBT elders means making sure they have access to publicly-funded senior services, which can be literally life-saving,” said Michael Adams, Chief Executive Office of the group Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders.

“Now, it appears that the Trump Administration wants to make believe LGBT older people don’t exist, by erasing them from this critically important survey,” he said in a prepared statement. “We insist that this decision be reversed and that the federal government commit to serving all elders in need, including those who are LGBT.”

In a mid-March draft for the required questionnaire for the annual national survey under the Older Americans Act published in the Federal Register, Price’s department said it had made “no changes” to the survey. In reality, though, the question asking if they were gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual had been stripped.

Collins and the co-signers said they were troubled that officials didn’t think it was worth noting that they planned to cease asking a question that’s been part of the survey since 2014.

They also pointed to a second survey in which Price’s department also wiped out the question.

The senators said that older “LGBT individuals,” including some with disabilities, “face many challenges, including financial insecurity, social isolation, discrimination and barriers to access for aging and accessibility services.”

“We are concerned that removing sexual orientation and gender identity questions from these surveys will limit” the department’s ability to address the needs of gay seniors, the senators said.

In the letter that Collins co-wrote with Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., she said the sexual orientation questions “were designed to ensure that vital services were reaching vulnerable LGBT Americans.”

“By rolling back data collection,” the letter said, “it is possible that the needs of millions of Americans will go unmet.”

They said that in order to ensure the needs are met, “we urge you to restore sexual orientation and gender identity questions” on the both the Older Americans Act survey and the Centers for Independent Living Annual Program Performance Report survey.

The senators asked Price for a staff briefing by May 5 to explain the decision to omit the question.

During his years in Congress, gay rights groups considered Price hostile to their agenda.

The answers to the surveys are used to evaluate the effectiveness of a programs that deliver meals, provide transportation, offer home care, provide caregiver support, serve people with disabilities and more.

The independent living survey’s initial draft this year included a question on sexual orientation, the senators said, but it was inexplicably dropped in the current version along with an option for respondents to identify as transgender if they wished.

“These appear to be the only notable edits made to the survey,” the senators said.

Collins is the chair of the Senate’s Aging Committee. Casey is the Democratic leader on the panel.

Among the other signers of the letter were Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine


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