Disability insurance companies are only able to communicate or share information with SSA to the extent insureds give them permission to. Generally, insurers ask claimants to sign a release giving them permission to obtain social security files. I should emphasize that claimants are NOT required to provide SSA Authorizations to insurers and can keep “the file” confidential. However, most ERISA Plans contain offset (reduction) provisions and therefore, insurers should be provided with SSDI approval letters when received.
Most insurers are only interested in SSDI records to the extent that information is received pertaining to SSDI primary and family awards (SSDI approval letters). In my experience very few insurers insist on releasing all SSDI records, and that is as it should be.
The exception, of course, is Unum. Unum sets up SSDI schemes to not only obtain SSDI files but communicate with SSA’s DDS’ (Disability Determination Specialists). Unum sends out their own versions of an SSA Authorization that when signed, releases Form 831. Unum’s SSDI Authorization is also valid for two (2) years when there is no valid reason for Unum to be requesting SSDI formation for that long. Form 831 provides the name of the DDS, as well as the code listings under which SSDI was approved.
I’ve also been told that Unum’s claims reps are instructed by managers to attempt conference calls with claimants and SSA by phone so that the claimant can get Unum’s reps past the phone menus and directly to the DDS. This is entirely inappropriate, and claimants should be on guard not to agree to this nonsense.
Claimants are required to provide insurers with copies of SSDI approval or denial letters so that offset and overpayment information can be obtained. In addition, claimants should not provide any insurer with SSDI letters resulting from an Administrative Law Judge decision. These letters inform recipients of favorable decisions, but often provide a great deal of information that companies such as Unum can misrepresent to deny claims. Letters from ALJ decisions are NOT official approval letters and claimants should wait to receive the approval letter before sending on.
Unum caused UK recipients of government welfare programs a great deal of pain and suffering by interfering with government entitlements in Great Britain. Although Americans often see the word “welfare programs” and freak out, in reality work and health welfare in the UK is supported by taxes the same way SSDI is here in the US.
It appears to me that Unum is in the process of “assisting” SSA who is really entitled to benefits and who is not. This can be seen by the increase in frequency that SSA is now “updating” files.
The last thing Americans want is Unum interfering, or involved with the only entitlement program Americans pay for through FICA taxes.
I am being harassed by Unum to apply for dependent SSDI benefits. Do they ever let up?
In the “Other Monthly Income” section of most Unum policies, Plan provisions provide for offsets (reductions) of benefits for not only benefits received, but benefits entitled to. This means Unum can reduce benefits with estimated offsets for SSDI awards claimants aren’t even receiving yet. My suggestion is to apply for both primary (you) and family (dependent) SSDI benefits at the same time and get it over with.
The Hartford recently harassed a claimant to apply for dependent coverage by phone and sent frequent letters. Insurers will continue to harass you until they have recovered every penny Plan policies entitle them to. Unum seems to have a current focus going on forcing claimants to apply for dependent coverage. Claimants who want to avoid possible offsets for estimates of dependent coverage should apply as soon as possible to avoid harassment.
Why is Unum forcing me to apply for SSDI when I intend to return to work?
I recently had an opportunity to watch a YouTube video of House Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) hammering a SSA judge for overturning 90% of SSDI claims at the ALJ level. Representative Gowdy’s points involved “costing the American taxpayer” for people who could work. I thought at the time that Rep. Gowdy was about as far away from the real reason for the bankruptcy of SSDI as he could get.
Years ago, I was an expert witness in a qui tam case Loughren v. UnumProvident when it was proven Unum indiscriminately forced all ERISA claimants to apply for SSDI and cost the American taxpayer millions in administrative and benefit costs. The case was won, but only marginally so. The real cost to the American taxpayer is probably in the millions.
Technically, insurers should only require claimants to apply for SSDI when it becomes apparent after 24 months of benefits that they are totally disabled and meet the criteria for SSDI. However, insurers rarely wait 24 months to determine if claimants are able to return to work, and literally “force” claimants to apply under threat of “estimate reductions” from benefits.
In my opinion, group insurers often shoot themselves in the foot by forcing able-bodied future workers to apply for SSDI. Return to work programs are just as profitable as pushing claimants to apply for SSDI. Generally, once claimants receive SSDI they are not likely to give up the benefits even if they are able to work in some capacity.
Who do you favor in the upcoming presidential election?
The purpose of this blog is to provide information relative to private disability claims. I choose not to discuss my personal political views on this forum. Even if I did exercise my right to a public opinion it is likely, as many YouTube Commentaries and bloggers have already experienced, this blog would be censored.
Therefore, I have chosen to restrict this blog to disability issues for the betterment of all.