Olympia Attorney Jeanette Lafoon Takes on High-Cost Medical Records for Disabled Clients

The tipping point for Jeanette Laffoon came in 2016 when one of her clients was charged $900 for a copy of his medical records. An attorney who represents clients in Social Security disabilities cases, Laffoon was optimistic when the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act passed into federal law in 2009, assuming that it would make life easier for those she serves.

Jeanette Laffoon grew tired of watching her disabled clients get charged exorbitant fees to access their own medical records. Photo credit: Jeanette LaffoonIn practice, however, the law has not made as much of a difference as she had hoped. Low-income clients in Washington State applying for Social Security benefits are still routinely charged a $25 fee plus $1.12 per page to access the medical records they need to submit. Depending on the size of the records, the cost can be hundreds of dollars for people living on $197 per month – all simply to receive copies of documents they are legally entitled to. “The practical aspect of these really high-cost medical records has prevented people from being able to prove that they’re disabled,” says Laffoon.

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Thurston Talks Promote Maddox and Laffoon

am in my thirties, healthy, and able to work. If you are like me, you might not even be aware of your social security benefits or thinking about what would happen if you became disabled. Local attorney Jeanette Laffoon says, unfortunately this is the case for many people and they end up falling through the cracks. At her law office, Maddox & Laffoon, she and her partner Stephen Maddox are working to educate people about their benefits. “If you’re legitimately unable to work because of an impairment you should be on the benefit. That’s what it’s there for, that’s why you’ve paid your taxes,” she tells me.

Why hire an attorney for social security disability benefits?

At first glance, the system can seem a little daunting and very complicated, even though Jeanette says it’s set up to be user-friendly. Maddox & Laffoon are there to help you with every step. It starts with just a phone call. Jeanette says usually once someone becomes unable to work, due to a mental or physical impairment, they apply for their social security disability benefits. “People will apply for benefits and get turned down, get discouraged and don’t appeal, not understanding that only about 1 in 3 are approved at the initial level now. As the system has tightened up, people that should be approved at the initial level are being denied.” Jeanette says this occurs for a number of reasons, but it’s no reason to just give up. “If they apply and are denied, that’s probably the time they want to start looking around and talk to somebody.”

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Why Local Legal Council Is Critical During Social Security Disability Claims

Thurston Talk – July 22, 2015

Jeanette Laffoon was tired of practicing law. It was the mid-1990s, and all she wanted to do was stay home, look after her newborn daughter, and sew quilts.

“The law I was practicing—corporate, litigation, and franchise law—was all about business and less about helping individuals,” said Laffoon. “Just when I decided to quit, a friend who worked for Legal Services called and asked if I would be willing to start a Hospital Project in Denver. The job involved interviewing hospital patients who were unable to pay their bills. Many of them, we discovered, were legally disabled and qualified for Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI),” she said.

Laffoon came to love the law again because of the joy she received helping people who had a physical or mental impairment qualify for disability.

In 1999, Elie Halpern & Associates PLLC offered Laffoon a job practicing SSD and SSI law in Olympia. She accepted the offer, and she and her family left Denver. “After living in a large city for so long, we were relieved to get to a small town with clean air, clean water and huge trees,” she said.

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