HHS Statement on the Passing of Andrés Gallegos
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) joins the disability community in mourning the loss of Andrés Gallegos, Chairman of the National Council on Disability (NCD), who passed away over the weekend. Andrés was one of our nation’s most important legal minds on disability rights, a fierce champion of true inclusion and equal opportunities for disabled people, and a leader in the independent living movement.
In addition, Andrés was a critical partner in HHS’ work to end disability discrimination in medical care and to address the health disparities experienced by people with disabilities. For decades, he provided advice and counsel on the implementation of the most consequential health care and disability rights laws – including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as state and local civil rights laws – to ensure equal access to care and services for disabled people. His impact can be seen across HHS – from the designation of people with disabilities as a population that experiences health disparities to the anti-discrimination provisions in our proposed update to the regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
“For nearly 30 years, Andrés Gallegos played a critical role in the crafting and implementation of critical laws and policy affecting the lives of people with disabilities,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Thanks to his tireless and groundbreaking efforts, the health care and civil rights landscape in this country has been forever changed. My thoughts are with his wife, Donna, and children, Alicia and Andrés.”
“Andrés Gallegos was a brilliant disability lawyer, a leader in the independent living movement, and a mentor to so many,” said Alison Barkoff, who leads the Administration for Community Living. “From the moment he became chair of the National Council on Disability, he was an invaluable partner in our work to address health disparities, ensure equal access to health care and make disaster planning and response more inclusive of disabled people. We will honor Andrés’ legacy by ensuring the vibrancy of the independent living programs he helped shape and continuing the fight for the full inclusion of disabled people in all aspects of life.”
“Andrés Gallegos was a leader who worked to continually improve and make the world a better place for all of us, especially people with disabilities,” said Melanie Fontes Rainer, Director of the Office for Civil Rights. “As we enforce the very laws he fought so hard for, we work in his memory to ensure people are not discriminated against when seeking health and human services, and continue to increase access and quality of care.”
“Andrés Gallegos was a key advisor to me and this Administration on important questions of disability law and policy,” said Samuel Bagenstos, HHS General Counsel. “He will be terribly missed, and we will do our best to maintain his focus on independence, equality, and full membership in the community for individuals with disabilities.”