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Unum Group in the Black, Leaving Claimants Feeling Blue

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Chattanooga, TNOn November 1, Unum Insurance announced triumphantly that its Q3 earnings were up, beating analysts expectations in terms of profits and income. Based in Chattanooga, Unum Group grew its after-tax operating income to $224 million, which is $1 million more than the same period a year ago.

However, it is doubtful if that bit of good news might have dissuaded Shirley Beck from filing her Unum lawsuit some three weeks earlier, in Pennsylvania Western District Court. While the terms of the lawsuit were not known, the fact remains policy holders continue to be dissatisfied with Unum insurance—and the apparent disconnect between sometimes decades of faithful payment of premiums, and the alleged stonewalling when it comes time for Unum to pony up the benefits for a legitimate claim.

And now, it appears things have gotten so bad that some claimants are simply giving up.

Linda Nee, a former Unum employee who blogs about her experiences and the industry as a whole, also operates Disability Claims Solutions Inc. (DCS), an undertaking designed to help policy holders with their Unum disability insurance claims.

In one of her more recent blogs, Nee reveals a troubling trend: rather than calling to seek help with pursuing their claims, Unum policyholders appear to be asking for help in withdrawing their claim. Why? According to Nee, it's because they can no longer deal with the company's alleged tactics to delay, or deny their claims.

Tactics, according to Nee, include harassment, surveillance, stonewalling and delays, disregard for medical records, and the list goes on.

Nee herself has described the lengths Unum would go to deny what would otherwise be legitimate claims, in an apparent effort to avoid paying in exchange for an improved bottom line. There have been accusations—which Nee has previously noted she has seen first-hand—of quotas and bonus incentives for those Unum employees and departments that achieved the highest number of denied claims. Unum—known variously as First Unum and Unum Provident—has been dogged with a reputation for being difficult when it comes time to pursue a claim.

Their defenders cite that it's an industry-wide problem. But Nee asserts it continues to happen with Unum more often, and more consistently than with other carriers.

Clients of DCS, Nee says, talk of threatening letters and other communications, which "cause fear and intimidation."

Like plaintiff Shirley Beck, Unum claimants who have run out of both patience and courage to contend with the alleged harassment, stonewalling and delays would also be loathe to applaud Unum Group for earning a million more in Q3 dollars this year than the third quarter in 2011.

They would also not be buoyed by statements by that soft performance in Unum's UK sector would likely be turned around by the utilization of policies and protocols aimed at returning their UK operation to profitability.

"And in those areas that were below our expectations—such as Unum UK—I'm confident we are taking the right actions to improve performance," Unum CEO Tom Watjen stated in a letter to employees, excerpts of which were published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press (11/1/12).

Some may be left to wonder what those actions might be. Others may be left wondering if Unum's overall gilded Q3 performance with an extra $1 million in its coffers might have been built on the backs of those very policyholders Unum Group appears to be abandoning.


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