GBLS Remembers our Beloved Colleague and Dear Friend Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson at the GBLS Annual Meeting on 6/18/2013
It is with great sadness that we announce that our beloved colleague and dear friend Sarah Anderson died on Monday, August 14. For more than three decades, Sarah worked at Greater Boston Legal Services, fighting for the rights of thousands of low-income families and people with disabilities. She was a mentor to hundreds of young lawyers, paralegals and students.
Sarah was a nationally respected expert on health and disability law. She litigated groundbreaking federal class actions in the Social Security area which have allowed thousands of vulnerable people across Massachusetts to access life-saving disability income benefits. See McDonald v. Sec’y Health and Human Servs., 834 F.2d 1085 (1st Cir. 1987); Avery v. Sec’y Health and Human Servs., 797 F.2d 19 (1986). The complex litigation in the McDonald and Avery cases officially established the standard for evaluation of “severity” of impairments and for assessing functional limitations caused by pain. These cases are still cited today as precedent to be followed. Sarah’s litigation in the arena of health access was equally important. Among other accomplishments, she was able to expand access to dental care for children with Medicaid coverage. Health Care for All v. Romney, Civil Action No. 00-10833-RWZ (D. Mass. July 14, 2005).
For more than 30 years, Sarah served on the board of the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP), serving as Chair of their Board for many years. Upon Sarah’s passing BHCHP remember Sarah for “teaching us all just about everything we know about disability and SSI/SSDI, fiercely advocating for our Consumer Advisory Board, championing our capital campaign to raise the money to renovated 780 Albany Street, and never ever failing to remind us that our mission is to serve the poor and homeless of Boston with dignity and excellence and care.”
Massachusetts legal aid leaders have remarked on Sarah’s extraordinary work. Georgia Katsoulomitis, the executive director of Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, wrote that Sarah’s “lifetime of good work on behalf of the most vulnerable in our society will be her lasting legacy.” Jacquelynne Bowman, GBLS’s Executive Director, called Sarah a “tireless champion of individual rights,” and said that it will be “hard to conceive of GBLS without her gentle presence.” Sarah’s colleagues at GBLS will remember her common sense approach to problem solving, her homemade ice cream sandwiches, her brilliance, empathy, fairness, good judgment, and dedication.
Our thoughts are with Sarah’s family. We thank them for sharing her with us for these many decades. We are better advocates, and more importantly, better people, for having worked with her.