HUD moves to protect older LGBT people, Obama pushes auto IRA plans
By Frederick Kunkle
“HUD’s announcement is a strong step toward ending discrimination against LGBT people in federally supported senior housing,” Michael Adams, executive director of Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders (SAGE), said in a written statement. “With a recent report showing that housing discrimination against LGBT elders is rampant, this is just the kind of leadership we need from the federal government. Now we need to make sure that these anti-discrimination protections are effectively implemented.”
The White House Conference on Aging is a once-a-decade event. This year’s was smaller and shorter in duration than those in the past, which have been credited for lending momentum to efforts to create Medicare 50 years ago.
The agenda for Monday included panels on preventing elder abuse, technology breakthroughs that may benefit older people and giving more support to caregivers.
President Obama, who spoke to the conference on the importance of improving retirement benefits for all workers, said his administration would draft new rules allowing states to pass legislation that would automatically enroll workers in IRAs.
Obama, who has pushed Congress to pass such a law without success, said a handful of states have already enacted such legislation and more than 20 others are considering it. Obama said such measures are critical, especially because traditional pensions have all but vanished from the private sector and about one third of the workforce has no retirement at all available through their places of employment.
“It is perverse in this country that it is just easier to save if you’ve already got money,” Obama said. “And I’m talking about not just the fact that you’ve got money to save. I’m talking just about the mechanics, the mechanism of being able to save, and then take advantage of the tax benefits of saving.”
Obama also said his administration would perform a major overhaul on quality and safety requirements for nursing homes, make it easier for older Americans to obtain access to nutritional food, put in place rules for federal employees that would give them more flexibility as caregivers, and train prosecutors from all 50 states to effectively prosecute elder abuse and financial exploitation.
Private companies and organizations that took part in the conference also announced initiatives aimed at older people.
The HUD policy guidance builds on a 2012 Equal Access Rule designed to protect people who use rent-subsidized vouchers, which are commonly referred to as Section 8 vouchers, and other federal housing programs.
The new guidance specifies further what programs are covered, including those that use financing from the Federal Housing Administration or Section 202 assistance for senior citizen housing.
The guidance clarifies that no owner or administrator of HUD-subsidized housing or FHA-assisted financing may inquire about the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant. Violators could be subjected to HUD sanctions.