On March 22, 2012, UNUM insurance company’s CEO Tom Watjen spoke at a United States Senate Committee hearing about the value of disability insurance coverage for individuals and the need for the private disability insurers and the government to work together in order to offer the coverage to more employees. Unum’s CEO stated, “The ability to earn a living is the most important asset people have, and protecting that asset benefits individuals, families, businesses and taxpayers.”
As disability insurance attorneys we agree that every employee should be offered private disability insurance by their employer. Currently, only 30 percent of employees in the United States have private long term disability insurance.
In a recent press release, Unum claims to have “commissioned a study by Charles River Associates to assess the value of employee benefits with a specific focus on disability protection provided in the workplace. The study found that private, employer-sponsored disability insurance saves taxpayers up to $4.5 billion dollars per year and helps as many as 575,000 families avoid impoverishment and the need to rely on public assistance programs.”
Unum’s CEO further testified, “The world of disability is uncharted territory for most employees, and Unum guides them through this difficult landscape by building a trusting and supportive relationship with the common goal of helping the employee recover and return to work.”
The language used by the Unum CEO is interesting. While Unum has a checkered history, it is our experience as disability insurance lawyers that UNUM approves more than 50% of the initial claims for disability benefits. We disagree with Unum’s assertion that they build a “trusting and supportive relationship” with the employee/ claimant. In most claims Unum will hire their own medical consultants and without examining the claimant conduct an evaluation to determine if an employee is fit to return to work. How is Unum being supportive and trusting if they are not relying on the opinion of the claimant’s treating physician(s)? Unum is obviously in business to make money, and they have a right to investigate every claim in order to prevent fraudulent claims. Claimants need to be prepared and well advised when seeking disability benefits from either UNUM or any disability insurance company.