Technically, there are two things a disability policy can do—pay or deny. But Unum now has a third option that pretty much puts you in limbo.
Suspension of Benefits
If you don’t do what Unum wants and when it wants, you might fall into this category. And you may not get your disability benefits restored. Because Unum has no contractual provision, it can suspend your benefits forever. On the other hand, if this option isn’t in your policy they cannot legally do that because it denies the insured of their rights.
Linda Nee, a Licensed Disability Claims Consultant and former Unum claims specialist, referred her client to an attorney after he received the “suspension of benefits” letter. “The attorney argued that this tactic by Unum is in violation of ERISA after 30 days and denying an Unum policy holder appeal rights,” says Nee, who believes this is yet another strategy to deny benefits. “My client’s benefits were restored, but only because he got legal help.”
Nee has another client still “on the hook”, which begs the question: how many Unum policy holders collecting disability benefits have been suspended? “Unum regularly schedules appointments with their independent medical examiners but my client requested that Unum reschedule,” Nee explains. “Unum suspended his benefits from the time he requested another appointment until the time that he showed up. This is a punitive measure, another tactic of denial.”
It’s no secret that Unum is outsourcing much of their administrative work to a company called Lucens Group. Nee says this company handles social security requests and they could also be handling settlements. Unum recently underwent two rounds of firings, including VPs in claims. Is Unum downsizing—outsourcing and firing their executives-- because they are cash poor? Nee says that Unum executives have “golden parachutes” so if anything happens they will get their money. As a former high-ranking employee of Unum, Nee knows from personal experience that executives can exercise their stock options, which they are awarded on a yearly basis.
As for people handling claims at Lucens, they don’t have to be experts. Unum simply gets Lucens staff to request a file and they do all the administrative work. With the exception of settlements (according to Nee, that might be next up), Lucens has qualified people to do that work.
Outsourcing isn’t new to Unum. In the mid 1990s they outsourced to India the IT department and their entire data center. And they decreased the number of employees in favor of outsourcing to other companies. Nee has inside information: she knows Unum employees who are still working and call her with information. “Within the past six months they started another round of firing IT employees,” she says, “and they are terminated for poor performance.”
Poor performance could mean just about anything. Nee’s “insiders” tell her that employees are given a phone and if they exceed the data plan or use the phone for personal use, that counts as poor performance. Or an employee is given an unreasonable workload and cannot possibly meet their goals.
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In the not-too-distant past, Unum has barely escaped class action lawsuits based on gender and sex discrimination. Nee says that, If you’re over 50 years old and female, start clearing out your desk. Sounds like Unum is due for wrongful termination lawsuits. And wrongful disability denials.
Linda Nee is a licensed disability claims consultant with her company, Disability Claims Solutions, Inc. As a former claims specialist with Unum, her experience is a valuable asset in providing consulting services to those who file claims. And those people whose claims have been denied.