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Unum Plays God

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Dayton, OH"You missed the deadline to return the paperwork we sent" is like saying "Your check is in the mail." It's likely another bad faith practice by Unum, a tactic to stop paying long term disability benefits to a policy holder. That one sentence gave Unum the power to play God and irrevocably ruin Deborah's life.

In 1994, Deborah fell down a flight of cement stairs at her home. She suffered a concussion, broke a few bones that necessitated back surgery and the most serious injury—she developed a seizure disorder that changed her life.

"My doctor sent a report to Unum saying I was permanently disabled and unable to return to work, ever again," says Deborah. "I was only 37 years old, newly married and recently moved to Florida. At first Unum paid for short term disability and at the same time I applied for social security benefits, which I was awarded right away. Then long term disability kicked in, which Unum paid for four years, until they just stopped paying. Period."

After a few unsuccessful phone calls, Deborah was able to contact her Unum representative and ask why her monthly check of $1,500 was late. "Apparently they had sent me paperwork but I had missed the deadline to file something so they cut me off," Deborah explains. "I told them that I never got any paperwork and what was it anyway, a continuance, a medical report my doctor had to fill out? They never gave me an answer, so I tried to hire an attorney, but this was before Unum was on the radar, before they were ordered to reassess denied claims.

"The attorney said he wasn't able to help me because I was planning on moving out of state and he wasn't prepared to go up against a big insurance company. I think he was intimidated by Unum."

Deborah is referring to Unum's order from the Department of Labor to reassess about 200,000 claims it had denied or closed between January 1, 1997 and December 31, 1999. Unum was supposed to accept and reevaluate claims, whether or not the claimant was still disabled, until December 31, 2006.

It would seem that Deborah was under Unum's radar. In Florida, she was trying to get treatment for the seizures and for a while she had the help of an assist dog trained for seizures. "This accident and lack of finances put such a strain on my marriage," she says. "I got divorced, moved back to Ohio and lived with my mother.

"Where did all the money I spent on Unum premiums go to? I couldn't contact my employer because the company had sold—there was nothing I could do. I was so devastated that I attempted suicide; everything was taken away from me. I lost my husband, my home and my job. I was a college graduate and self-sufficient. All of that had been taken away.

"From what I understand Unum has done this a lot to its policy holders; they just quit paying and they get away with it. If I saw the ads back in 1995 that I see today regarding civil suits against Unum, I would have been on top of the situation. I made several attempts to call Unum and got nowhere. Eventually I was so frustrated and decided to move on. All those years I was so devastated that I didn't have the fight in me and I think that Unum counts on this reaction."

Deborah is now living in a 700 square foot condo on social security, which pays $1,100 per month. Her rent is $650 so she can barely make ends meet.

"I figure Unum owes me $200,000 in back pay. I think they intentionally lied about this so-called paperwork and I am not the only one. There shouldn't be a statute of limitations when it comes to Unum because they don't live up to their responsibility…I hope your attorneys continue the good fight because someone needs to take on this Goliath."

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