Your Source For Disability Information

Video surveillance is a tool that insurance companies like The Hartford Financial Services sometimes use to review and validate disability claims in order to protect themselves from fraud. Although this can be a moral and useful tactic, The Hartford is facing numerous claims that they wrongfully terminated disability benefits based on surveillance video produced by private investigators.

It all started when Jack “Rocky” Whitten went on Good Morning America to share his story about how he was spied on while getting into a van, reading a magazine and while eating chips and salsa. He had “no difficulty dipping chips at a restaurant,” The Hartford said. The insurance company used this video surveillance as evidence that Whitten, who was on disability due to a broken neck, could return to work. Following the airing of the GMA segment Whitten’s benefits were reinstated, however it prompted dozens of other policyholders to come forward with their stories.

Policyholders find the correlations of their actions and the actions of their insurance companies to be bizarre and unwarranted. “I mean, they found the least little thing that makes no sense, I mean a chip weighs nothing,” Whitten’s wife, Leigh, said. Eric Neubarth, who suffered a traumatic brain injury, said that his benefits were cut off partially because he was filmed dong his laundry and eating lunch at a deli. Evan Werner severely injured his back in a car accident, and surveillance of him going to a doctor’s appointment and walking his dog was enough to convince The Hartford that he could perform sedentary work.

Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, defended The Hartford’s decisions to sever policies, claiming that surveillance is conducted to gather information, not to terminate claims. “My understanding is that the video is never used as a stand-alone tool for decision making. And what I can say is that claims can be appealed,” Pisano said.

Werner and many others have chosen to sue The Hartford, claiming that evidence gathered was absolutely insufficient and that their disability benefits were wrongfully terminated. Werner doesn’t understand why he was staked out after nine doctors told him that he was unable to work. Investigators waited outside his doctors office in order to film him in action. Werner’s lawyer, Mindy Chmielarz who is a partner for the DI Law Group, said “planning surveillance and setting up your investigator in the doctor’s office parking lot is dirty pool, you know you are going to get some type of activity, no matter how minimal it may be.”

The Hartford issued a statement in defense after the GMA piece aired, saying that they conduct surveillance in less than five percent of its long-term disability claims, and that in less than two percent of all of their cases investigated using surveillance are disability benefits terminated. Regardless of the amount of people this investigative surveillance affects, the question remains: Are The Hartford’s tactics fair? ┬áTell us what you think in the comments section.