"I had worked at a hospital for 20 years and they had Long Term Disability (LTD) coverage as part of the employee package," Sharon explains. " I paid for my own short term disability (STD), and both policies were bought through Unum, also known as Unum Provident. I got sick at the end of 1998; I couldn't move and put on 90 lbs of fluid within 45 days because of my kidney problems. In other words, I was really sick and couldn't go back to work. Anyway I claimed my STD in January 1999 and Unum paid my benefits for 6 months. I tried to get LTD but Unum refused to pay. They said I wasn't sick!
I first claimed inability to work due to kidney problems, extreme fatigue and a lot more, but at that time I hadn't been diagnosed with anything specific. It took 2 years for my doctor to determine that I had rheumatoid arthritis.
During that time I sent all my medical records to Unum's independent medical examiner; they basically ignored my doctor reports and all the lab reports. When I finally got the diagnosis, I appealed my claim and a local lawyer tried to help me but he was unable to do anything. Finally I was referred to a lawyer here in Amarillo for mediation.
I was called to the mediation and as soon as I entered the room it was obvious that I could barely walk. Still Unum said that I wasn't sick. But they had copies of all my medical records. I believe they just wanted me out of their hair; they had to do something so I got a pay-out—about 1/10th of what they owe. It was decided in mediation that Unum would pay $60,000 for a one-time payment and I wouldn't receive any benefits.
My income was about $65,000 a year at the hospital and Unum is supposed to pay half of that. Then I received a letter in 2006 from Unum saying they owed me more benefits—after the settlement--but three weeks later I received another letter. Unum said it had researched the contract in mediation and they determined that I am not owed any more benefits.
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In retrospect I wish that I had taken the appeal to court. I believe the judge would have made Unum step up to the plate and do the right thing—pay my benefits for as long as I am disabled, up to the age of my retirement. If they did the right thing I would have been able to maintain some semblance of a decent lifestyle, at least maintain some assets. I am 63 years old and I get less than $20,000 per year from social security. I had $10,000 in savings, a 401K and my own home—all gone: Thanks to Unum, I crashed even before the recession."