Performing the duties of the ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging
Alison Barkoff was sworn in as Principal Deputy Administrator on January 20, 2021 and is currently performing the duties of the ACL Administrator and the Assistant Secretary for Aging. She provides executive leadership and coordination for ACL programs nationwide and advises the HHS Secretary on issues affecting people with disabilities and older adults.
A sibling of an adult brother with developmental disabilities and a civil rights attorney, Alison is a lifelong advocate for community living – both professionally and personally – and has been at the forefront of national efforts to expand the home and community-based services (HCBS) that make community living possible.
As part of countless coalitions of people with disabilities, older adults, and advocates, she has fought to uphold the rights of people with disabilities and older adults and advance policies to ensure their access to health care, housing, employment, education, and all other facets of community life. She has testified before Congress and the US Commission on Civil Rights on disability rights and community living.
She has served in a variety of leadership roles with disability rights organizations, including leading advocacy efforts at the Center for Public Representation and the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.
She also is a veteran of the federal government. As Special Counsel for Olmstead Enforcement in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, she led efforts to enforce the rights of people with disabilities to live, work and fully participate in their communities. She also led interagency initiatives with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Medicaid HCBS and with the Department of Labor on direct care workforce issues.
Alison has brought that same focus on collaboration and coordination to her current role. Under her leadership, ACL is working with partners across HHS and the federal government on initiatives and interagency approaches to issues that affect people with disabilities and older adults, such as expanding access to HCBS and affordable, accessible housing; strengthening the direct care workforce; increasing competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities; and advancing equity, to name just a few.
Deputy Administrator for Programs
Maura Calsyn joined ACL as the Deputy Administrator for Programs in June 2023. She joined ACL from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where she served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Policy.
Maura has worked on a broad range of health policy areas in Congress, HHS, and non-profits for nearly two decades. As the head of OASH’s Office of Policy and Legislation, Maura developed and directed policy initiatives on a wide variety of issues, including nutrition, LGBTQI+ health equity, Long COVID, and the health impacts of climate change and environmental justice and advised the Assistant Secretary for Health on all aspects of legislation, policy, research, evaluation, and intergovernmental matters.
Before joining OASH, Maura held a variety of health policy and leadership positions at the Center for American Progress (CAP). Most recently, as the Vice President for Health Policy, she led CAP’s health policy development and advocacy efforts. Maura also established CAP’s public health program, which works across the organization to address structural public health challenges and advance health equity. Prior to joining CAP, Maura was an attorney for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Division of the Office of the General Counsel at HHS.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging
As the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aging, Kari Benson leads the Administration on Aging in advocating on behalf of older Americans. In this capacity, she guides and promotes the development of home and community-based long-term care programs, policies, and services designed to afford older people and their caregivers the ability to age with dignity and independence and to have a broad array of options available for an enhanced quality of life. This includes the promotion and implementation of evidence-based prevention interventions proven effective in avoiding or delaying the onset of chronic disease and illness.
Kari's entire career has been in the aging network, most recently serving as the director of the Aging and Adult Services Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services and as the executive director of the Minnesota Board on Aging. Through these dual roles, she oversaw the full range of federal- and state-funded HCBS for older adults, their families, and the friends, neighbors, and others who provide informal caregiving support. Prioritizing collaboration with the 11 tribal nations that share geography with Minnesota, as well as organizations reaching rural and underserved communities, was a hallmark of her leadership at the state level. She also partnered with the state's Disability Services Division to coordinate quality assurance and improvement strategies for the Medicaid waiver programs, strengthen maltreatment and critical incident remediation efforts for older adults and people with disabilities, and launch the state's universal LTSS assessment tool.
Kari holds a bachelor's degree in human ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master's degree in public policy from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota.
Deputy Administrator for Innovation and Partnership
As Deputy Administrator for Innovation and Partnership (CIP), Kelly Cronin leads the administration of programs and initiatives that serve both older adults and people with disabilities, including consumer access and protection programs. This includes overseeing the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, grants to improve Medicare beneficiaries’ access to low income subsidies, and the State No Wrong Door System program for access to long-term services and supports. She also directs efforts to develop and integrate networks of state and community-based organizations to address social determinants of health and to advance the integration of medical and social care to improve health outcomes of older adults and people with disabilities.
Ms. Cronin also has served in a variety of other roles at HHS, including with the FDA, CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), where she coordinated health IT programs and policies associated with health care payment and delivery system reform.
Before joining HHS in 2001, Ms. Cronin was a health services researcher and coordinated clinical trials in pharmaceutical and medical technology industries. She holds a master of public health with a concentration in epidemiology and biostatistics and a master of science in health policy from the School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington University.
Dr. Anjali J. Forber-Pratt
Director, National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research
Dr. Anjali J. Forber-Pratt was appointed to serve as the Director of ACL’s National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) on May 24, 2021.
Dr. Forber-Pratt began her research career in 2006, and her primary area of expertise is disability identity development. Prior to joining ACL, she served as an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University. In addition to teaching courses and serving as a mentor to undergraduate students and thesis advisor for candidates for master’s and doctoral degrees, she served as principal investigator for research projects covering a range of disability issues, including training of special education teachers, experiences of students with disabilities at every education level, and identity development. She has authored 33 peer-reviewed journal articles and is the author or co-author of a number of textbook chapters.
A two-time Paralympian and medalist in the sport of wheelchair racing, Dr. Forber-Pratt has dedicated her life to helping others recognize their potential. Globally, she is involved with disability advocacy efforts related to access to employment, education and sport. She was honored with the inaugural American Psychological Association Citizen Psychologist Award for Advancing Disability as a Human Rights and Social Justice Issue Award in 2020 and was recognized by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education as a 2018 Emerging Scholar. In 2013, she was awarded the American Association of People with Disabilities’ prestigious Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award, given to emerging leaders within the national disability community. Also in 2013, she was named a Champion of Change by the White House and had an opportunity to participate in a roundtable discussion with President Obama about disability policy issues.
Deputy Administrator for Policy and Evaluation
Vicki Gottlich leads the Center for Policy and Evaluation and serves as the senior policy advisor to the ACL Administrator, Principal Deputy Administrator and the agency. She oversees the evaluation of, and reporting on, the performance of ACL programs; the provision of technical assistance on performance measurement to ACL grantees; and assisting ACL’s organizational units in developing operational plans that include measurable objectives and performance indicators. She also oversees the coordination of policy activities across ACL and the review of departmental policies and guidance related to health and human services. Her center's policy development relates to the promotion of community living, including quality measurement of long-term services and supports, and implementation of policies related to person-centered planning.
Before joining HHS in 2011, Ms. Gottlich worked as an attorney and beneficiary advocate for older people and people with disabilities, engaging in policy work, litigation, and administrative advocacy. She is the author of numerous articles regarding Medicare, Medicaid, long-term services and supports, and private health insurance.
Ms. Gottlich has a Juris Doctor degree from New York University and a Master of Laws in urban legal studies from George Washington University Law School.
Commissioner of the Administration on Disabilities
Jill Jacobs was appointed to serve as the Commissioner of ACL’s Administration on Disabilities on Feb. 14, 2022.
Ms. Jacobs has more than two decades of professional experience managing disability services organizations, analyzing policy, and working toward improved health and disability programs and services at local, state, and federal levels. She also has been an active grassroots organizer, leading campaigns to depict President Franklin D. Roosevelt seated in his wheelchair in the national monument in Washington, D.C. and to ensure the inclusion of disabled children in schools, and organizing disaster response efforts for people with disabilities following Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, to name just a few of her accomplishments. In addition, Ms. Jacobs brings to the role the lived experience of her own disability and as the mother of two disabled adults.
Before joining ACL, Ms. Jacobs served as the Executive Director of the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia (ECNV), a center for independent living. Previously, Ms. Jacobs founded and served for sixteen years as the CEO of Ability Unleashed, a coordination and facilitation agency for Medicaid home and community-based services. She has held executive positions at several non-profit and government entities and served on the boards of a number of disability advocacy organizations, including the National Council on Independent Living and United Cerebral Palsy of Washington & Northern Virginia.
For her work advancing rights and access of disabled military family members while she was an Army spouse, the United States Army awarded Jill the Dr. Mary E. Walker Medal of Honor. Ms. Jacobs is a graduate of Texas A&M at Central Texas and received social work training at Army Social Work Services at Fort Hood, Texas.
Chief of Staff
As Chief of Staff, Mr. Nicholls serves as a senior advisor to the Administrator, Principal Deputy Administrator and the agency on policy, program and operational priorities, ensuring the agency’s efforts advance the missions of ACL and HHS. He also provides executive leadership for ACL’s congressional affairs, executive secretariat, external affairs, performance and evaluation, policy, regulatory, and oversight functions.
Prior to his current position, Mr. Nicholls served as the Deputy Director of Policy within the Bureau of Health Workforce at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), where he oversaw the policy, congressional affairs, planning, budget formulation, grants, and executive secretariat activities of the organization. He has also provided leadership in other positions within HHS on policy, program, management and strategic planning activities, including at the ACL, the Administration for Children and Families, the National Institutes of Health, and the HHS Office of the Secretary.
Before joining HHS in 2005, he was a policy maker, program manager, and case worker in the public and private sectors of health care and long-term services and supports. He received a Masters of Public Administration and Health Services Management and Policy from the Syracuse University-Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and Bachelors of Science in Psychology with an emphasis in gerontology from the University of Utah.
Director, Office of External Affairs
As Director of External Affairs, Christine Phillips serves as the senior communications advisor to the Administrator and Principal Deputy Administrator and leads the agency's communications team, which is responsible for media relations and speechwriting, as well as development of Internet, social media, and printed communications in support of expanding opportunities for all people to live independently, in the community.
Prior to joining ACL in 2013, she held similar positions with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Defense Media Activity (part of Department of Defense public affairs), and the Joint IED Defeat Organization. Before moving to the D.C. area, she served as vice president of account services for an Internet marketing agency serving pharmaceutical clients. Earlier roles included media relations, crisis communications, speechwriting, and marketing communications in both corporate and nonprofit settings.
Also a captain in the Navy Reserve, Ms. Phillips currently serves as the commanding officer of the reserve unit supporting U.S. 2nd Fleet public affairs. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Western Michigan University and an MBA from George Mason University.
Director, Center for Regional Operations
As Director of the Center for Regional Operations, Amy Wiatr-Rodriguez leads ACL's team of ten Regional Administrators who represent the ACL Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging in the regions as well as serve as liaisons to state, tribal, and local aging and disability stakeholders. She also works with and connects stakeholders to other HHS divisions and federal agencies to help advance the development of programs and activities serving older adults, people with disabilities, and family caregivers.
Since joining federal service in 2007, Ms. Wiatr-Rodriguez has served as a liaison to tribal and state aging programs, a program officer for various grant projects, and a resource for technical assistance on a wide range of Older Americans Act and aging policy issues.
Prior to her position with ACL, Ms. Wiatr-Rodriguez worked for AgeOptions, an area agency on aging serving the suburban Chicago area. She also has experience in nursing home and other settings. Ms. Wiatr-Rodriguez has a Bachelor of Arts in social work and English from Concordia University Chicago, and a Master of Social Work with a management concentration from the State University of New York at Albany.
Deputy Administrator for Management and Budget
As the Deputy Administrator for Management and Budget, Rasheed Williams serves as the Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer for ACL and advises the Administrator on all matters related to resource management and internal administration.
Mr. Williams oversees the administration of ACL’s financial resources; discretionary and mandatory grants; information technology and telecommunications; procurement and facilities services; personnel and human capital development; and internal control activities. Under his leadership, the Center for Management and Budget is responsible for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of ACL’s operations and providing effective administrative services to support ACL’s programs.
Prior to joining HHS in 2007, Mr. Williams served in the Executive Office of the President, first as the deputy branch chief for White House Presidential Travel Services and later as director of financial operations for the White House Press Office. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Aircraft Systems and Business Finance Management from Delaware State University.