Jennifer Jaff, Advocate for the Ill, Dies at 55



September 24, 2012

Jennifer Jaff, a lawyer whose nearly four-decade struggle with a debilitating disease led her to become a leading advocate for people with chronic illnesses, died on Sept. 14 at her home in Farmington, Conn. She was 55.

The cause was complications of Crohn’s disease, an incurable gastrointestinal disorder that she was found to have when she was 19, said her brother, Dr. Michael Jaff, a vascular medicine specialist.

Ms. Jaff was the founder and director of Advocacy for Patients With Chronic Illness, an organization she started in her home in 2005 after she found that she could no longer work at her law practice. She assisted more than 5,000 clients in filing claims with insurance companies so they could receive increased coverage of what she called invisible disabilities — among them Crohn’s disease, autoimmune disorders (in which the immune system attacks healthy body tissue), congenital metabolic disorders and sickle cell anemia.

But her mission went far beyond steering patients through the maze of the health insurance industry, in which, she argued, the providers do all they can to minimize coverage of chronic illness. She spoke to groups across the country, lobbied politicians and published a handbook, “Know Your Rights,” which offers guidance on insurance appeals, Social Security disability benefits, job discrimination, educational equity and housing discrimination.

Read the full article by The New York Times here.