Unum found guilty of social security disability fraud by a federal jury

A federal jury in Boston found that Unum, the nation’s largest disability insurer, had committed fraud in some cases by requiring customers to apply for Social Security benefits even though it knew they were not eligible.

But the verdict, based on a sample of six claims, contained enough ambiguity to leave both sides declaring victory in the case, filed on behalf of the Social Security Administration. In a verdict returned Wednesday, the jury found that two of the disability claims had been fraudulent and two others had showed no evidence of fraud. The jury was unable to reach a decision on the other two cases.

Both sides had agreed to present a small sample to the jury to keep the lawsuit from bogging down in complexity. Unum processed almost 400,000 disability claims in 2007, and paid out more than $4 billion in benefits.

In the next phase, the two sides will seek a decision on what the sample reveals about Unum’s overall behavior, and the extent to which it harmed the Social Security program.

Jim Sabourin, a spokesman for Unum, said the finding that only two of the six claims involved fraud showed that the lawsuit was without merit.

“The jury rejected the claim that there was any systemic problem with the way Unum adjudicates its claims,” Mr. Sabourin said. He said Unum intended to appeal the part of the verdict that had found fraud. Gregory Dell, a disability insurance attorney representing claimants nationwide, commented that “it is unconsciable that UNUM continues to deny fraud after a jury has found them guilty”. Unum and most of the other long-term disability insurance companies routinely make claimants apply for social security disability when the disability carrier knows that claimant is not eligible.

A spokesman for the Social Security Administration, Mark Hinkle, said the agency was monitoring the lawsuit but would not comment on it.

The lawsuit was filed under a federal whistle-blower statute that allows private citizens to sue on behalf of government programs if they believe they have evidence of fraud. The lawsuit is being tried in United States District Court in Boston.

The lawsuit is one of two federal cases contending that Unum and another disability insurer, Cigna, are forcing able-bodied people to repeatedly apply for Social Security disability benefits, under the threat that if they do not, their insurance payments will be cut. The Social Security Administration defines “disabled” more stringently than the insurance companies generally do, and many people who qualify for disability insurance benefits do not qualify for Social Security.

The lawsuits assert that sending claimants into the Social Security system allows Unum and Cigna to reduce their claims reserves, which in turn raises the insurers’ profitability.

Unum and Cigna say that referring claimants to Social Security is a standard practice in the industry and that there is nothing wrong with it.

The lawsuits assert that the referrals are clogging Social Security with questionable applications, and forcing taxpayers to pay needless processing costs. People whose applications are rejected are entitled to a review of their cases by an administrative law judge, and the administrative courts have a huge backlog.

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Do you help Unum claimants nationwide?

We represent Unum clients nationwide and we encourage you to contact us for a FREE immediate phone consultation with one of our experienced disability insurance attorneys.

Can you help with a Unum disability insurance policy?

Our disability insurance lawyers help policy holders seeking short or long term disability insurance benefits from Unum. We have helped thousands of disability insurance claimants nationwide with monthly disability benefits. With more than 40 years of disability insurance experience we have helped individuals in almost every occupation and we are familiar with the disability income policies offered by Unum.

How do you help Unum claimants?

Our lawyers help individuals that have either purchased a Unum long term disability insurance policy from an insurance company or obtained short or long term disability insurance coverage as a benefit from their employer.

Our experienced lawyers can assist with Unum:

  • ERISA and Non-ERISA Appeals of Disability Benefit Denials
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Yes. We are a national disability insurance law firm that is available to represent you regardless of where you live in the United States. We have partner lawyers in every state and we have filed lawsuits in most federal courts nationwide. Our disability lawyers represent disability claimants at all stages of a claim for disability insurance benefits. There is nothing that our lawyers have not seen in the disability insurance world.

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Since we represent disability insurance claimants at different stages of a disability insurance claim we offer a variety of different fee options. We understand that claimants living on disability insurance benefits have a limited source of income; therefore we always try to work with the claimant to make our attorney fees as affordable as possible.

The three available fee options are a contingency fee agreement (no attorney fee or cost unless we make a recovery), hourly fee or fixed flat rate.

In every case we provide each client with a written fee agreement detailing the terms and conditions. We always offer a free initial phone consultation and we appreciate the opportunity to work with you in obtaining payment of your disability insurance benefits.

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No. For purposes of efficiency and to reduce expenses for our clients we have found that 99% of our clients prefer to communicate via telephone, e-mail, fax, GoToMeeting.com sessions, or Skype. If you prefer an initial in-person meeting please let us know. A disability company will never require you to come to their office and similarly we are set up so that we handle your entire claim without the need for you to come to our office.

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