Health & Disability Advocates


Celebrating two decades of health and economic security for all:

  • Our innovative work with Military & Veteran Families has been recognized by the White House, the Department of Defense and the National Guard.

  • Our statewide events for families of the fallen are fun, empowering ways to come together, honor our heroes and help families thrive.

  • We consulted with more than 40 states on the intersection of employment and publicly funded health care services and supports like Medicaid & Medicare.

  • We’ve been featured in diverse media outlets such as The New York Times, CSPAN, Crain’s Chicago Business, BBC News, Businessweek, Kaiser Health News, CBS2, Modern Healthcare, Chicago Sun-Times, Inc., WBEZ, Wall Street Journal, WTTW, Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, ABC7, Associated Press, WGN, Huffington Post and The Chronicle of Philanthropy.
  • We helped guide every major state healthcare program in the last decade, connecting more than half a million vulnerable people with health coverage.

  • We worked directly with more than 2000 vulnerable adults, children and their families to connect them to a full range of essential health services and supports each year.

  • We launched one of the nation’s first medical-legal partnerships,  bringing together doctors, lawyers and social workers to remove barriers to child health, education and development. 

  • We help Chicago’s homeless and mentally ill access public benefits that connect them with healthcare  and supportive housing, adding $2.5M local economic impact each year.

At Health & Disability Advocates, we promote income security, work and education opportunities and improve healthcare access and services for children, people with disabilities and low-income, older adults. Our legal and policy experts provide a range of services including individual legal representation, custom trainings and technical assistance to consumers, businesses, service providers and government agencies. Our innovative projects and policies protect and strengthen federal and state safety-net programs including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicare and Medicaid.

Network for Good  


What's New at HDA

The U.S. Department of Labor announced a final rule to improve employment for people with disabilities -- including a seven percent hiring goal. Our CEO Barbara Otto blogs about it on Think Beyond the Label

Our Illinois Warrior to Warrior project with veterans is featured in the Commercial News and the East Central Illinois News Gazette. We're still recruiting volunteer veterans to work with National Guard units and adding resources to our database. To connect, go to or call 877-938-8403. 

Crain's Chicago Business featured data from our Illinois Health Matters information hub on the Affordable Care Act in a special "Market Intel" section on data and health care.

We testified to the Ways and Means Committee Hearing on Encouraging Work Through the Social Security Disability Program.

CEO Barb Otto shares a Health in All Policy agenda at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's Healthy Communities Regional Chicago Summit.

Thanks to the Community Memorial Foundation and West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry - we were delighted to keynote and moderate a panel discussion on "Understanding and Implementing the Affordable Care Act."

Director of Veterans programming Laura Gallagher Watkin pens a thoughtful letter regarding a recent New York Times article on the rising rate of military suicide.

We've released a second and improved version of our award-winning data visualization of health care reform in Illinois. Now you can pinpoint geography and demographics of who will be impacted by Affordable Care Care. The Associated Press used the tool to report on how the ACA could help military Veterans access health coverage

Our Medical-Legal partnership won "Outstanding MLP" for our policy contributions and longstanding leadership at the national annual MLP summit in April. The event is a two-day conference that brings together leaders in healthcare, law, public health and government to share ideas, insights and best practices about how to integrate health and legal care for vulnerable people.

Medical-Legal partnership director Amy Zimmerman authored the intro to the Early Intervention section (“A Critical Time: The First Three Years”), of the 2013 Kids Count report "Moving Policy, Making Progress," and is a featured panelist at next week's Voices for Illinois Children's Symposium, Illinois Kids Count 2013 next week on Friday, March 22nd.

The AP released a story in the national and state press on language access under the ACA. They interviewed us about our translations, presentations and materials on health reform for limited English speaking populations. The story was picked up widely nationally and across the state. These materials and most recent translation into Nepali are available at, the digital hub for statewide health care reform. See our Press Room.  

When it comes to disability hiring, we celebrate next practice but we're not afraid to ruffle  feathers. CEO Barbara Otto blogs "Walgreens Is Not Always the Answer" on Huffington Post.

HDA featured in The New York Times for filing a state class complaint against CPS for failures to provide early childhood special education services. Learn more in our press release. Also featured in Medill News Reports.

CEO Barbara Otto pens "Myth buster: The case for hiring individuals with disabilities" in Insight Labor Law Reports from Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.

Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership staff honored Nov. 29 with the PILI Distinguished Intern Alumni Award for exemplary contribution to the field of public interest law. 

HDA launches Our Family Security to share stories of the benefits of Social Security programs from the perspective of a relative of a beneficiary.

CEO Barb Otto shares tips on disability hiring in Fast Company's "The Debate Behind Disability Hiring"

Senior Analyst Joe Entwisle blogs on the Huffington Post - "Debunking the Disability Trap"

CEO Barb Otto participates in MACPAC (Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission

In honor of National Disability Awareness and Employment month, we hosted a full day online career fair for people with disabilities. Featured employers included AT&T, Boeing, Pearson, The Hartford, Union Pacific and Oregon DHS. In related news, HDA CEO Barb Otto, and Founder/Principal of Think Beyond the Label shares her vision for the future of workforce inclusivity with GovLoop Insights, BBC News blog, Bionic revolution: The tech getting disabled people into work and Huffington Post. Did you know? If you're registered on the Huffington Post, you can "fan" Barb's new HuffPo blog.

Thanks to all who helped us celebrate 20 years (and counting) of innovative programs and policy from Health & Disability Advocates at our national premiere of "Escape Fire."  Available on iTunes, Escape Fire is a movie about the future of health care. We were joined by Dr. Kohar Jones (Doctors for America) and David Carvalho, chairman of the Cook County Health & Hospitals System. Crain's Chicago Business covers the event here.

Congratulations to our Illinois Health Matters team and partners for winning 2nd place in the 2012 Civic Data Challenge with an innovative tool to help people visualize the impact of health reform through civic data. The team was also awarded the Kaggle Prize, and will be developing our own data competition.

In August 2012, Gov Quinn signed The Early Intervention Services System Act into law, enhancing early intervention (EI) services for infants and toddlers with disabilities. The goal of the new law is to make it easier for young children with special needs to receive the services they need to live full and integrated lives.

In June 2012, the Affordable Care Act was upheld per Supreme Court decision. Read HDA's statement on the ruling, and stories about our clients who stand to benefit from health care reform in the Chicago Tribune and USA Today. Crains Chicago Business features our research and Visualizing Health Reform tool and talks to CEO Barb Otto about next steps. More analysis about Medicaid to available on Illinois Health Matters.

For fastest assistance regarding the termination of the Illinois Cares Rx program, please call the Illinois Senior Helpline at 1-800-252-8966. Former Illinois Cares Rx recipients can also take their medical bills and paid Medicare premium statements into the closest Department of Human Services offices to see if they can qualify for Medicaid with a spenddown. If you don't have a Medicare premium statement, you can ask a caseworker to count your Medicare premiums, and they can confirm their payment through their computer system.




Online Library

View these recent additions to the Library, or search our entire collection.

Think Beyond the Label Business Overview

This document describes the business services available through Think Beyond the Label.

TBTL Federal Contractor Partnership Solutions

This document describes how TBTL helps businesses with new OFCCP compliance requirements.

2014 TBTL Business Services

This document describes Think Beyond the Label's business partnerships in 2014.