By the time Fred went to his doctor with persistent back pain it had radiated down his legs and up his spine. "At first he thought it was just kidney stones—truck drivers fall prey to those," says Fred. "He ordered an MRI and found spinal stenosis, a cracked vertebrae and 3 damaged discs – L3, L4 and L5. That sure came as a shock. But I was also told 20 years after driving truck, you'd fall prey to these injuries as well.
I went on short term disability (STD) through Winn Dixie--a big food chain in the south--and went through all the physical therapy. Still, they said I couldn't pass a DOT (Department of Transportation ) physical anymore. I was 47 and not ready to retire; I was looking forward to at least 15 more years of trucking or some other similar job—you get tired of the road but you always go back. Trucking is a real pain in the butt, however the money is twice what you normally make at another job: I was making $72,000 a year.
When STD ran out through AFLAC, my first insurer, UnumProvident [now called Unum] was supposed to pick up long term disability (LTD). (It was a deal the company made to cut costs.) It took three months to process my claim and I had no income during that time. After three months everything was fine until I got approved for social security disability, in February 2008. Just one week later, I received a letter from Unum demanding I pay back every penny they spent on me: $73,000!
When I got that letter I was almost physically sick. I am pretty tough but I was totally shocked, I was speechless. It said 'Payable upon receipt' as if I am going to pull $73,000 out of my back pocket. I think these people come from Jupiter. Talk about greed…
I had paid eight years worth of premiums to this company, $85 per month, and never in my wildest dreams would I be expected to pay them back. I should send them a bill for those payments! Yet the back pay when I first made my claim for social security until the day it was awarded was only $50,000.
This is how it works: Unum reduces their payments to you to reflect the difference from social security. I get just over $1,000 from social security and I was getting about $1900 per month from Unum. So Unum should be paying me $900 per month.
I called social security and asked them what I should do. They told me that the money --$50,000--was supposed to be used for my personal expenses such as medical bills and the mortgage for my house because I was behind payments on practically everything. But they couldn't interfere with UnumProvident at all.
Now, Unum has stopped all my payments; it is using $900 a month to repay the $73,000 they say I owe them, plus interest. They told me to go out and borrow the money to pay them. Here I am, disabled. Who is going to loan me money unless I have a job?
Unum offered a job but my doctor said no way. He told me that if I work, in six months I will be in a wheelchair. I can't drive anything. Unum tried to get me into a re-education program but with long classroom hours, my doctor also advised me against that. I can't even drive to class because I take a narcotic pain killer. Driving to class would be illegal.
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Unum even suggested I turn over my social security checks to them to pay off the debt. I told them not only no but HELL NO! What will I live off, who will pay my prescriptions? Even with my wife's salary, it won't be enough. They don't care, they are absolutely cruel. All they care about is making dividends to their stockholders.
I thought insurance companies were there to help when you were in trouble, that's their job. So why would they want to be reimbursed when you pay premiums for so long? And what happened to risk management? From what I have seen so far, insurance companies only consider risk management when you have other means of support."