2013 – Thomas Yates
Thomas Yates’s entire distinguished legal career has been predicated upon helping people with disabilities to improve their quality of life. As General Counsel for Health & Disability Advocates for the past 17 years and prior to that a Supervisory Attorney at the Legal Assistance Foundation for 11 years, Tom has guided thousands of clients towards economic and health care security through his tireless advocacy on behalf of people who depend on Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare for their health and independence. His work encompasses all aspects of legal advocacy to accomplish what is necessary for his clients. In addition to the full caseload of individuals he assists through direct representation in court and administrative hearings, Tom continues to relentlessly pursue legal and policy advocacy at the state and national level.
A recognized leader on Social Security and Medicaid, Tom is routinely sought after by legislators and public officials for guidance on complex issues. He has published extensively in the areas of Social Security, Medicaid and state-funded assistance programs, compiling widely used guiding materials on Illinois health care programs and SSI benefits for children. Drawing upon his legal expertise and depth of experience, Tom promotes innovative, systemic changes and has helped create durable systemic reforms that ensure individuals with disabilities and other vulnerable populations receive the support they need. He has served as lead counsel on a number of class actions that have benefited thousands of low-income and disabled individuals and children, highlighted by the pivotal Memisovski v. Blagovevich case several years ago.
Tom’s legacy is especially evident through his training and mentorship of young interns and paralegals. His devotion to public service ideals has inspired many of his mentees to pursue careers in law in the interest of helping disadvantaged individuals. Tom is known by friends and colleagues as a dedicated, selfless and humble worker who frequently understates the impact of his substantial contributions. It is our honor to recognize him with this prestigious award.