Tag Archives: phoenix disability lawyer

ABC News Investigates CIGNA’s Disability Claims Handling Practices

ABC Entertainment News|ABC Business News

UPDATE: Since this story was originally posted in 2008, the insurance regulators of Maine and Massachusetts initiated targeted market conduct examinations of CIGNA’s disability claims handling practices. The concerns raised by Maine and Massachusetts prompted the insurance commissioners of Connecticut and Pennsylvania to also open market conduct examinations and for the California Insurance Commissioner to reopen his previous examination of CIGNA. In 2013, the examinations resulted in fines against the CIGNA companies, corrective actions being required in its handling of disability claims, and for CIGNA to reevaluate certain claims that were denied or terminated. Information on the CIGNA Multi-State Regulatory Settlement Agreement is discussed in greater detail in another of our blog posts at the link above.

ABC News/Good Morning America‘s investigation by Chris Cuomo into CIGNA disability claim denials has uncovered some disturbing stories. In the video above, claimants describe some of the hardships they have been forced to endure due to denials of their claims or unreasonable delays in having their claims paid.

One breast cancer survivor, who eventually was paid on her claim with the assistance of a disability insurance attorney, describes her two-year ordeal with CIGNA as a “daily, eight-hour job just to fulfill the information that CIGNA was requesting.” The tactic of wearing down a disabled claimant with repeated requests for documentation that has already been provided multiple times — thereby deliberately delaying payment of the claim — is called “slow walking” by some in the industry. While CIGNA denies engaging in this practice, many claimants who are already emotionally and physically vulnerable due to their disability will eventually quit pursuing benefits to which they are entitled in this battle of attrition that is widespread in the disability insurance industry. In this situation, it is often necessary for a claimant to retain the services of an attorney, not only to take on legal issues with the insurance company but also to shoulder the burden of the excessive and repetitive requests for documentation.

Other claimants in Chris Cuomo’s GMA piece describe (a) three years of fighting CIGNA for their benefits, all the while sinking deeply into debt and losing everything; (b) being caught between a rock and a hard place when told by an employer that he could not return to work due to his disability, but simultaneously having CIGNA deny disability benefits; (c) purchasing insurance to protect herself and her family, only to have her business destroyed, savings depleted and fighting to keep her family home when benefits were denied or delayed.

Another of the claimants profiled, Ursula Guidry, a young wife and mother with advanced breast cancer, initially had her benefits paid by CIGNA, but after awhile, they terminated her benefits and told her she could return to work full-time. Eventually CIGNA settled the claim with her. She passed away three months later. As her husband says, it is tragic that her last year on earth was spent being in a panic over financial issues and fighting an unethical insurance company instead of enjoying as much time as possible with her husband and children.

CIGNA did not respond to GMA re any of the specific claimants profiled, but their Chief Medical Officer stated they pay 90% of disability claims filed and that the majority of their customers are satisfied.

Disability Insurer MassMutual Opens West Coast Center in Phoenix, Arizona

Disability insurer Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company aka MassMutual Financial Group has for the first time in its 162-year history opened a West Coast business center. The new 60,000 sq. ft. center is located on Black Canyon Highway near the I-17 and Peoria Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona and will employ as many as 400 people. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton were among those on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the facility on October 16, 2013.

MassMutual CEO Roger Crandall told the Arizona Republic that the new Phoenix center will primarily serve customers and policyholders in the Western U.S., allowing for faster expansion and also mitigating operational risks to the company through diversification of the location of its resources and staff. During Superstorm Sandy, we blogged about the temporary shutdown of many of the disability insurance companies located on the East Coast, including MassMutual, Unum Group/UnumProvident, The Hartford, New York Life, and Berkshire Life/Guardian Life.  With locations now in Arizona as well as Massachusetts, the company may be able to avoid a situation where its call center and other operations, such as issuance of disability benefit checks, are suspended due to a natural disaster.

MassMutual employs approximately 6,700 persons nationwide, including nearly 3,500 at its Massachusetts headquarters, which is currently in the midst of a major renovation. Roughly 25 employees have been transferred from MassMutual’s headquarters to the Phoenix facility and an additional 70+ employees, who were a part of The Hartford’s Retirement Plans business prior to its $400 million acquisition by MassMutual in September 2012, will become a part of MassMutual’s Phoenix staff. To round out its staff, MassMutual has announced plans to hire an additional 200-250 employees in the Phoenix, Arizona area.

According to the Arizona Republic, MassMutual has approximately 25,000 clients in Arizona and parts of New Mexico holding roughly $4 billion dollars in insurance coverage. While we are hopeful that MassMutual’s Phoenix facility will bring improvements to MassMutual’s disability insurance claims service, we would also advise disability claimants that having an additional 400 MassMutual local employees could also mean increased and potentially intrusive surveillance.

Guardian Life Insurance Offers Student Loan Protection Program

Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, parent company of Berkshire Life Insurance Company of America, recently launched a new program offering medical and dental professionals insurance for student loans in the event of total disability. This program, which can pay up to $2,000 per month in student loan payments is available to those with advanced degrees – including those in the dental and medical industries – and to new and future practitioners for whom this kind of protection can seem quite appealing. Understanding that most graduates will begin practicing with an increasingly heavy debt load, Guardian represented the program as a simple preventative solution – but will this “win-win” policy be there when you need it?

Statistically speaking, 1 in 4 people will suffer a long-term disability during his or her career, and claimants are responsible for proving disability prior to receiving benefits. Because insurance companies are notorious for employing a number of tactics to “disprove” a disability and avoid paying claims (including subjecting claimants to “independent” medical exams, conducting video surveillance, and otherwise causing undue delays), it is critical that you understand your policy before you buy. As Guardian Life Insurance states, only those who are deemed totally disabled will benefit from this new student loan insurance policy.  We expect that claims under these policies will be highly scrutinized, just as they would be with a traditional disability insurance claim. Those considering purchasing disability insurance or filing a disability claim should consult with an attorney to ensure they are prepared with the best possible policy in the event of a disability.

Disability Insurance Q&A: How Should Doctors Approach Their Treating Physicians About a Disability Claim?


Question:  How should doctors approach their treating physicians about a disability claim?

Answer:  Your treating physician’s support can often be critical to getting your claim approved.  A hurried, uninterested physician may not have time to devote to your claim.  In addition, fully discussing your condition with a professional, compassionate treating physician will help ensure supportive medical records.  When to discuss your potential claim with a physician is an important timing issue.  Also, when the time comes to speak to the treating physician about the claim, a disabled dentist or doctor should ensure that the treating physician understands the definition of “disability” under the insurance policy, so that he or she can accurately opine as to the inability of the doctor or dentist to work.

Some of our previous blog posts on this important issue are available here and here.

July 26, 2013 Marks the 23rd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

ada 23rd anniversary


As of tomorrow, July 26, 2013, it will have been 23 years since President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act.   In Phoenix, Arizona, the Arizona Disability Advocacy Coalition and Arizona Bridge to Independent Living will be hosting an ADA Anniversary Celebration at the Nina Mason Pulliam Conference Center from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on July 26, 2013.  In addition to fun and food, the event will feature speakers on various disability issues, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the ADA national Legacy Project, and will honor community members that embody the spirit of the ADA.  Registration to attend the event is available online at this link.

Coinciding with the Americans with Disabilities Act 23rd Anniversary, the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency, has released a report “A Promising Start:  Preliminary Analysis of Court Decisions Under the ADA Amendments Act.”  The report analyzes court decisions and legal interpretations of coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 and notes positive findings for plaintiffs in ADA lawsuits.

Justice Dept. Resolves Complaint Against Arizona’s SuperShuttle re Violations of Americans With Disabilities Act


In early June, SuperShuttle International, Inc., a Scottsdale, Arizona-based transportation company commonly used for shared rides to the airports, and the United States Justice Department reached a settlement in a complaint alleging that SuperShuttle discriminated against an individual with a disability.

The complaint alleged that SuperShuttle forced the complainant, who is blind, and her traveling companions to use a pricier, non-shared ride to their destination because the complainant was traveling with a service dog.  Instead of the group being charged the shared-ride fee of $91 to travel by van from the airport to their hotel, they were booked on an exclusive shared trip at a rate of $125 because, per the SuperShuttle agent, “no one would want to travel with a service animal.”

Under the terms of the settlement, SuperShuttle is to implement a revised policy re service animals for people with disabilities, disseminate the policy to all employees and franchisees and train them in complying with the policies, post “Service Animals Welcome” signs in conspicuous locations at each guest service center, and pay $1,000 to the complainant.

A full copy of the Settlement Agreement reached between the U.S. Department of Justice and SuperShuttle is available at this link.

Comitz | Beethe To Be Exhibitor at the Arizona Society of Anesthesiologists Scientific Meeting in Scottsdale

Disability attorneys from the law firm of Comitz | Beethe will be available to speak with anesthesiologists attending the 39th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Arizona Society of Anesthesiologists this Friday and Saturday at the Scottsdale Resort and Conference Center.  If you have questions regarding your disability insurance policy or filing a disability claim, please feel free to stop by our exhibitor table for informative materials and/or to talk with one of the attorneys at our booth.

Inaugural Ball to be Held by the Disability Community in D.C.

Two disability advocacy groups, the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability Power & Pride, have teamed up to host the second Disability Community Inaugural Ball on January 19th at the National Press Club.  The ball is one of many in Washington, D.C. over the weekend to celebrate President Obama’s inauguration.

The fully-accessible Disability Community Inaugural Ball is open to the public, with more than 400 guests expected.  It is also anticipated that members of Congress will attend, possibly including the ball’s honorary committee members, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. and Kareem Dale, a disability adviser to President Obama.  Event planners see the ball as an opportunity for people with disabilities to come together as a community, potentially make an impression on Washington, and, of course, to have fun.

President Obama Proclaims Today “International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2012”


Americans have always understood that each of us is entitled to a set of fundamental freedoms and protections under the law, and that when everyone gets a fair shot at opportunity, all of us do better. For more than two decades, our country has upheld those basic promises for persons with disabilities through the Americans with Disabilities Act — a sweeping civil rights bill that moved our Nation forward in the journey to equality for all. And from making health care more affordable to ensuring new technologies are accessible, we have continued to build on that progress, guided by the belief that equal access and equal opportunity are common principles that unite us as one Nation.

On the 20th International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we reaffirm that the struggle to ensure the rights of every person does not end at our borders, but extends to every country and every community. It continues for the woman who is at greater risk of abuse because of a disability and for the child who is denied the chance to get an education because of the way he was born. It goes on for the 1 billion people with disabilities worldwide who all too often cannot attend school, find work, access medical care, or receive fair treatment. These injustices are an affront to our shared humanity — which is why the United States has joined 153 other countries around the world in signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which calls on all nations to establish protections and liberties like those afforded under the Americans with Disabilities Act. While Americans with disabilities already enjoy these rights at home, they frequently face barriers when they travel, conduct business, study, or reside overseas. Ratifying the Convention in the Senate would reaffirm America’s position as the global leader on disability rights and better position us to encourage progress toward inclusion, equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for persons with disabilities worldwide.

We have come far in the long march to achieve equal opportunity for all. But even as we partner with countries across the globe in affirming universal human rights, we know our work will not be finished until the inherent dignity and worth of all persons with disabilities is guaranteed. Today, let us renew our commitment to meeting that challenge here in the United States, and let us redouble our efforts to build new paths to participation, empowerment, and progress around the world.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 3, 2012, as International Day of Persons with Disabilities. I call on all Americans to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


USDOJ Intervenes in Lawsuit re Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities in Administering Law School Admissions Test

Per the order of a federal judge, the U.S. Department of Justice has intervened in the lawsuit The Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. LSAC Inc., et al.  The case was previously a state level class action suit on behalf of law school admission test takers in California, but the involvement of the Justice Department expands the lawsuit nationwide.

The lawsuit alleges that the Law School Admissions Council has discriminated against test takers with disabilities by failing to provide testing accommodations and by “flagging” test scores obtained by those disabled test-takers who were provided certain testing accommodations.  The complaint alleges that flagging the scores of the test-takers with disabilities is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

LSAC’s discriminatory policies in the administration of the Law School Admissions Test adversely impact people with disabilities nationwide.  This is a systemic problem with serious consequences that echo throughout such individuals’ academic and employment careers, and it needs to be addressed as such.  The Justice Department’s full participation in this case is an important step towards ending a long cycle of disability discrimination in standardized testing.

Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division

The Justice Department’s Press Release further explains:

Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public accommodations and by entities that offer examinations or courses related to applications, licensing, certification, or credentialing for secondary or postsecondary education, professional, or trade purposes.  The ADA mandates that testing entities administer examinations in an accessible manner. This requires testing entities to administer examinations, such as the Law School Admissions Test, so as to best ensure that, when the examination is administered to a person with a disability, the examination results accurately reflect his or her aptitude or achievement level, or whatever other fact the examination purports to measure, rather than the individual’s disability.