"I worked for 20 years and never once got sick," says Colleen. "But I never recuperated from surgery and nobody can help me. Two years ago I began to notice that my ear 'went in' and if you look at me straight-on, you cannot even see my ear. My neurologist said I could have surgery again but I said, 'No thank you'. He said there is nothing more that can be done except drug therapy and have surgery to correct the way my ear looks. I don't care about how I look—the headaches are debilitating.
When I started working for the Reliance Insurance Company 11 years ago, I took out a long term disability (LTD) policy with Unum Provident—all employees were encouraged to do so. I put money into this insurance company but when it was time for them to help me, they just turned their backs—they denied my claim. I had the surgery on March 30th and they stopped my short term benefits (STD) on June 13th --because I did not die from the surgery! I really think that is what it would have taken to qualify.
Herein lies the problem; even though I haven't been able to return to work, my neurosurgeon said I might be able to return to work in June—the month I was cut off.
I had an appointment to see my neurosurgeon in June. I went to his office and he was not there. So how could he say I could return to work without seeing me? I have proof that I had an appointment; when I arrived at his office the receptionist said that she tried to call me and cancel, 'but I guess you had already left,' she said. I rescheduled an appointment and finally saw him in September--four months later, without any income.
Meanwhile I saw my primary care physician who had many questions for the neurologist. My GP's receptionist kept calling his office and leaving messages but they never got a call back. When I saw the neurosurgeon I was dripping water from my nostrils and my headaches were worse. I asked Dr. Cohen why he hadn't returned my doctor's calls or Unum's calls. 'You said that you examined me in June but you never did,' I said. He didn't say anything. Talk about bad bedside manner.
When Unum terminated my STD benefits, I appealed and I was denied based on the neurosurgeon's report. My GP wrote several letters to Unum stating that I was unable to work but they fell on deaf ears. I never saw one of Unum's 'independent examiners' either, although I would welcome the chance to see another doctor. I also want to know what is happening with me; my health has not improved.
I applied for social security benefits on my own and they denied me at first. I got a disability lawyer to help and I won! I remember the judge. 'Don't worry, everything is going to be OK,' he said, because I was crying at the hearing. It was such a relief.
My attorney explained this to me: between social security and Unum I would have been getting $2500 per month. Instead my payments started at $1600 per month and because of inflation, I now receive $1900 per month.
After my lawyer helped me to appeal and I won, I saw something on TV—there was a disability doctor in California representing clients who were denied their claims with Unum. I phoned an attorney in California who advised me to file a reassessment because the Department of Labor was looking at Unum's denial of claims and they had to reassess thousands and thousands of policy holders who were denied their benefits.
But I lost because my statue of limitations had run out, even though I had a pretty good case. (I urge anyone to appeal if they were recently denied.)
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I hope the laws can change because Unum has harmed and destroyed a lot of people. My primary care physician said 'Colleen, you have never been sick, this is the first time.' Now I am taking anti-depressants and painkillers and don't see anything changing. I have three children to support and it has been hard.
When I was working I had money; now I have to clip coupons and watch every penny. My kids don't understand that they can't have what their friends have and it breaks my heart—that is why I got depressed. My depression was caused my financial anxiety; in other words, Unum caused my depression, which is a direct result of my first claim, when they denied me."