While some disabled Unum insureds struggle to make ends meet while fighting unfair claim denials or termination of their benefits, the Times Free Press reports that Tom Watjen, the President and CEO of Unum, received a pay increase of $750,000.00 in 2011 — for a total annual income of $12.2 million — in reward for “delivering strong results in a difficult environment,” according to Unum’s compensation committee.
Watjen receives a base salary of $1.1 million, with the remaining $11.1 million tied to performance-related cash and stock incentives. In 2011, Unum had after-tax earnings of $887.6 million, an 11% return on equity, and $10.2 billion in revenue.
As we have blogged many times, even seemingly straightforward terms like “total disability” or “appropriate medical treatment” in your disability insurance policy may have different meanings in the context of a disability insurance claim than they do in everyday English. In a video posted on YouTube, Jack McGarry, CEO, Unum UK, is surprisingly candid in addressing how their insurance policy language is confusing.
Insurance is so confusing, in large part because we’ve made it that way, the insurance companies. We use acronyms instead of words, we use lingo instead of language. We’ve made it easy for us to communicate with each other, but we’ve made it very, very difficult for consumers to understand what we’re saying, and we need to change that.
[Consumers] are confused by our products, they don’t understand the choices, they don’t understand the coverage, and one of the reasons they don’t understand it is because the language we use to describe it, they find it confusing, and a little scary, so we’re partnering with Plain English to help simply the language we use to describe what we do so everybody can understand it.
While Unum is apparently taking steps to clarify the language in its policies in the United Kingdom, it is of little help to American insureds who purchased policies written in language that is, in the words of Unum’s UK CEO, ”very, very difficult for consumers to understand.” The help of an experienced disability insurance attorney to interpret the language of your policy can be critical in ensuring you receive the benefits to which you are entitled.
When it comes to disability insurance, your treating physician’s support can be critical to getting your legitimate claim approved. If your doctor can’t provide adequate documentation of your condition or is reluctant to get involved, there is a much higher chance that your claim will be denied. However, fully discussing your condition with a professional, compassionate treating physician will help ensure supportive medical records. When you are involved in a disability insurance claim, it is important to understand how to approach your treating doctor so that he or she can help you.
When to discuss your potential claim with a physician is an important timing issue. Instead of trying to enlist your doctor’s help at the very first visit, you should wait to talk to your treating physician until after he or she knows you and your condition well enough to opine accurately as to your ability to work. It is vital that you develop a relationship of trust and confidence with your doctor before inviting him or her to assist you in your claim. hysicians are often reluctant to support claims for benefits if they question the motivations behind the claims. A physician who has treated, without success, the policyholder making a legitimate disability claim will be more willing to cooperate with the extensive process.
In the wake of a number of complaints from passengers with disabilities, the Transportation Security Administration is planning to launch a toll free disability hotline in January so that passengers with disabilities can call in advance if they anticipate needing extra assistance during security screening. In recent months, there have been numerous complaints, many from elderly women, alleging that TSA agents subjected them to strip searches because they were unfamiliar with the specialized medical devices the women were wearing.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. and New York State Senator Michael Gianaris made a request in a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security and TSA officials for passenger advocates to be trained and familiarized with various medical conditions and medical devices so that they can provide “alternative methods for addressing the needs and concerns of elderly, disabled and other vulnerable passengers.”
Senator Schumer further said:
While the safety and security of our flights must be a top priority, we need to make sure that flying does not become a fear-inducing, degrading and potentially humiliating experience. Right now, passengers who feel that their rights are about to be violated have nowhere to turn, but by training passenger advocates at each of our airports, the TSA can finally give passengers a voice.
TSA has not commented on the proposal but issued a statement reminding the public that customer service representatives are available at most airports. The TSA currently offers Tips for the Screening Process on its website as well as other more detailed information, and we will be reviewing some of the other regulations for passengers with disabilities in subsequent blog posts.
UPDATE: The TSA Cares hotline designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions has now been launched. It is recommended that those traveling with special medical needs contact the hotline at least 72 hours in advance of their arrival at the airport with questions about screening policies, procedures and to coordinate getting through the security checkpoints. The TSA Cares toll-free hotline number is 1-855-787-2227, and its hours of operation are Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 EST, excluding federal holidays.
Many of the questions surrounding a disability insurance claim depend on the language in your policy. Thus, the first step to a successful claim is getting a copy of that policy. Though it is always important to keep a copy of your disability insurance policy and any related documents, sometimes policyholders forget to do so, they lose the document, or the papers become accidentally damaged.
The simplest way to get a copy of your policy is to call or send a letter to your insurance company directly. You can search for your disability insurer’s phone number and address on the Arizona Department of Insurance website. The insurer may require you to pay a minor fee, but they will send you a copy.
Once you receive your copy, check to make sure it is actually yours and that no pages are missing or damaged. If you have questions about the provisions in the policy or filing a claim, you can bring your copy to a disability insurance attorney who can help interpret it and guide you through the claims process.
When a disability insurance company is fighting a claim, it will often agree to pay benefits – but with a “reservation of rights.” What is a reservation of rights and how can it impact a legitimate disability claim?
When an insurer pays a claim under a reservation of rights, it is essentially providing a provisional payment. Though the insurance company may be sending you a check, it is not admitting that it actually has any liability under the policy. Instead, it is “reserving the right” to stop paying your claim if it can find evidence to deny it later. Once the company denies your claim, they can also demand you to repay them whatever proceeds they have distributed to you.
This practice is good for the insurance company, as it buys it extra time to investigate – and often later deny – a claim without putting it at risk of violating the laws against undue delay in payment. However, because the insurance company can still investigate the claim and then demand full repayment at any moment, the reservation of rights provides no peace of mind for the policyholder. Fortunately, a disability insurance attorney can protect you from this uncertainty by properly presenting your claim and thoroughly monitoring the insurance company’s actions to reach a beneficial result.
In the wake of the recent shootings in Tucson, Arizona and with the nation following the recovery of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords from serious brain injuries, neurologist Richard C. Senelick has taken the opportunity to write an article for the Huffington Post to help educate the public about interacting with people with disabilities. Although some of the pointers Dr. Senelick gives are common sense (treat the person as an adult), some of his tips are useful for situations less frequently encountered (such as how and whether to shake the hand of a person with a paralyzed, missing, or prosthetic right arm).
Dr. Senelick’s article is available in full at this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-c-senelick-md/disability-etiquette_b_814887.html
Statement by President Obama on the 35th Anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Today, the 35th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), President Obama released the following statement:
In America, we believe that every child, regardless of class, color, creed, or ability, deserves access to a world-class education. But as recently as thirty-five years ago, an American child with a disability might have attended school without the interventions and accommodations necessary for their success; or been involuntarily isolated in a state-run institution; or even received no education at all.
That was wrong – and America set out to right it. Today, across the United States, nearly 6.6 million students with disabilities rely on the provisions of the landmark Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to ensure that they enjoy the same educational rights as all children.
And as we mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of that law, we remember what it was all about. Equal opportunity. Equal access. Not dependence, but independence. We know that our education system must hold children with disabilities to the same high standards as those without disabilities, and hold them accountable for their success and their growth. We remember that disability rights are civil rights, too – and pledge to enforce those rights in order to live up to our founding principles and ensure the promise of opportunity for all our people. And even as we celebrate children with disabilities and their parents, teachers, advocates, and all who still strive to tear down the true barriers to success – even as we celebrate how far we’ve come – we commit ourselves to the ever-unfinished work of forming that more perfect union.