In September, 2005, Thomas required valve replacement surgery for his aortic valve. In October, 2005, he required further surgery because his pericardial sac (a sac around the heart) was filling with fluid which could have resulted in his heart stopping. Surgery was performed to drain fluids from the sac.
Thomas says that he had the option of using a mechanical valve or a pig valve to replace his aortic valve. "I chose a mechanical valve because of my age. I'm still young and a pig valve will only last seven years or so but a mechanical valve lasts for a long time. But, when you choose a mechanical valve you have to take blood thinners."
Thomas's body did not respond well to the blood thinners. When he tried to return to work, around six months following the second surgery, he suffered from internal bleeding. "I live on Long Island, but I worked in Manhattan," Thomas says. "To get to Manhattan you have to take the Long Island Railroad which goes through Penn Station. Penn Station is extremely busy and all it took was someone bumping me the wrong way to cause severe bruising and internal bleeding. In Penn Station I was constantly being bumped and pushed around. I never knew when someone hitting me with a briefcase would result in internal bleeding that would not stop."
After one-and-a-half weeks of this, Thomas had to stop work because he was bleeding internally. According to his doctor, Thomas would need three months of stable blood levels before he could safely return to work. That was when UnumProvident got involved.
UnumProvident phoned Verizon to find out what type of work Thomas did. Verizon informed UnumProvident that Thomas had a desk job. UnumProvident then denied Thomas' claim, saying he could work because he could wear sneakers to work which would prevent the internal bleeding.
"They did not even send me for an independent medical opinion," Thomas says. "I would have even gone to see one of their doctors to show them how bad the problem was. I sent them pictures from the week that I returned to work, to show how black and blue I was just from that short time. But they denied my claim because I can wear sneakers to work. Wearing sneakers will not prevent internal bleeding from my head to my feet."
Making things worse, UnumProvident contacted Verizon again and told them that Thomas was able to return to work. "Verizon took UnumProvident's word for it, which I do not blame them for, but Verizon then told me that if I did not return to work by June 28 then I was voluntarily resigning my position," Thomas says. "There was no way I could return to work. That was only a month or so after I had tried working and my doctor said I needed at least three months before I could work again. So I lost my job."
Thomas has since managed to get his blood levels relatively stable and has found new work but he says he used to make more than twice as much as he does now. "UnumProvident took my premiums for years and years, but when I needed my policy they came up with some lame excuse in order to deny my claim," Thomas says. "They did it without even sending me to a different doctor for a second opinion. UnumProvident deserves to lose their license."