Man says Meals on Wheels grilled him on sexual orientation and gender identity when signing up

December 13, 2017 11:33 PM

Are you transgender? What's your sexual orientation? Those are just a couple of questions being asked of people applying for Meals on Wheels.

Sounds bizarre, but that's exactly what an Ontario County man says happened when he applied for the program.

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Dan Miller called Ontario County’s Office for the Aging to sign up for the Meals on Wheels program. The office sent a caseworker to his home to assess his needs, but the interview didn't go so well.

"They asking if you’re black, if you’re white," Miller tells us. "It’s nobody’s business. I mean you’re asking for food."

Dan Miller of Honeoye says he couldn’t believe the questions he was asked when a caseworker came to his home to interview him for the Meals on Wheels program. He didn’t make it through the interview.

Miller says, "We weren’t even talking about the Meal on Wheels. I told her to leave."

Miller is 81 and isn’t able to prepare meals at home anymore. He has nursing care for several medical conditions, so he reached out to the Office for the Aging in Ontario County. "I even offered myself to pay for the meals."

It’s a free program, however, caseworkers are required to take the prospective client through a near 20-page assessment that includes questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.

"What we’re looking for is not to just plunk a meal in so somebody’s home, because often we’re talking about frail people who need many services so the requirement by the state is to look at that whole person and that’s what the assessment is about," says Irene Coveny, director.

We brought Miller’s concerns to Irene Coveny. She runs Ontario County’s Office for the Aging which administers the Meals on Wheels program. She says the state requires an assessment for all community programs.

"It does get personal and our workers preface this by saying were going to ask some personal questions and you may choose to answer them or not, but it doesn’t affect your eligibility," says Coveny.

Coveny says this is a comprehensive assessment and gender identity and sexual orientation do matter when it comes to health and social services.

Lynette Adams, News10NBC: "Do you think anything they said could have made a difference?"
Miller: “I think if the lady would have come out and said here’s some questions you can answer them or you don’t. I would have said, 'Alright I still don’t see a connection.' It should have been dropped right there."

Coveny says the state came up with the questions in the assessment. And she says the assessments are necessary to continue to receive money for the Meals on Wheels and other community program.


Lynette Adams

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