GMA Insurance Company Surveillance Tactics – LTD Claim | Video Transcript
MALE VOICE: — GMA to get answers. We’ve all heard how insurance companies use video surveillance to catch people faking an injury in order to collect benefits, protect against fraud. But critics say they may go too far sometimes videotaping people who are really disabled and then using it against them, no matter how harmless the footage may seem. So this morning, we’re going to introduce you to a disabled man who says he lost his benefits in part because he was caught on tape eating a taco chip.
MALE VOICE: You’re watching hidden camera video of a physically disabled man who’s doing nothing wrong. His name is Jack Rocky Whitten. And this video was taken by a private investigator hired by his insurance company. Here he is seen reading a magazine, getting into a car and dipping a taco chip into salsa. This all may look innocuous enough.
But that surveillance video helped cost Rocky and his family dearly.
JACK ROCKY WHITTEN: I was worried if I was going to be able to take care of my kids and get them to college and keep food on the table.
MALE VOICE: That was the Buford [phonetic] Boy Scout Pack 308 doing our – – .
MALE VOICE: Seven years ago, Rocky had a well-paying job as manager of a Wal-Mart, happily married, and healthy. But then an awful accident — Rocky fell and broke his neck, which he had previously injured. Doctors said he was permanently disabled, unable to ever return to work.
ROGER CICALA: Disabled? I’m absolutely sure. This man has tried everything he could to get back to work.
JACK ROCKY WHITTEN: My vision is affected by all the medicine that I take. I have severe headaches. I have problems with short-term memory now.
MALE VOICE: Luckily, Rocky planned ahead. Ten years ago, he bought a disability insurance policy with The Hartford Insurance Company, which promised to pay him 60 percent of his salary if he became disabled. So he filed a claim and in 2003 began receiving benefits. But then last year, a Hartford man paid a house call to Rocky and his wife.
LEIGH WHITTEN: He started asking Rocky questions concerning his limitations.
MALE VOICE: Then the insurance rep dropped what the company seemed to think was a bombshell on Rocky, this video tape that he played for the couple, taken by a private investigator hired by The Hartford. The tape puzzled the couple.
LEIGH WHITTEN: Had, you know, Rocky getting out of the van, followed us in the bookstore, Rocky looking at a magazine. You know, he was eating chip and dip, like salsa and chips.
MALE VOICE: Sure enough, soon after The Hartford rep’s visit, Rocky got a letter from The Hartford. It said their video tape showed he had [GRAPHIC: “no difficulty dipping chips at a restaurant”] no difficulty dipping chips at a restaurant and that he could [GRAPHIC: “shop, reach, bend, enter and exit a vehicle”] shop, reach, bend, enter and exit a vehicle. It said a doctor hired by The Hartford, who’d never met Rocky, said medical records and the surveillance video showed he was [GRAPHIC: “physically capable of performing full-time sedentary occupations”] physically capable of performing full-time sedentary occupations. And although three of Rocky’s treating doctors and the Social Security Administration said Rocky was permanently disabled, The Hartford cut off Rocky’s benefits, leaving the family in financial crisis.
LEIGH WHITTEN: I mean, they found the least little thing that makes no sense. He has to eat. I mean, a chip weighs nothing.
MALE VOICE: Rocky’s doctor says the type of activity shown on the video tape isn’t relevant to determining whether he can go back to work.
ROGER CICALA: Eating a taco means nothing. We know he can eat. His hands work. This is not about — if there’s a job eating tacos, he might be able to do that. I don’t know of such employment.
MALE VOICE: Rocky’s lawyer says The Hartford uses video tape surveillance to intimidate claimants into giving up and not pursuing their claims.
ALICIA PAULINO-GRISHAM: They suggest fraud. And it scares claimants.
MALE VOICE: The Hartford sent us this statement saying [GRAPHIC: “The Hartford’s overarching mission has always been to ensure that people with disabilities receive the benefits to which they are entitled.”] their overarching mission has always been to ensure people with disabilities receive the benefits to which they are entitled and that they handled Rocky’s disability claim [GRAPHIC: “fairly”] fairly. They say they use surveillance to prevent fraud and that it’s used in less than 5 percent of their claims and that their surveillance along with other factors only ends in the cutting off of their client’s disability insurance 30 percent of the time. But ABC News has learned there’ve been over a dozen cases where federal courts ruled The Hartford improperly overemphasized their surveillance video in cutting off their clients’ benefits. The Hartford says these cases don’t fairly or accurately represent the company’s strong record. Rocky and his lawyer lost their appeal to The Hartford and were getting ready to go to court. But eight days after we called The Hartford about Rocky’s case, [GRAPHIC: check] they reinstated Rocky’s benefits of $2,100 a month and sent this check for more than $45,000 for past benefits. The company says that’s because of new information provided by Rocky’s lawyer before we called them. Whatever the reason, it’s the end of a painful chapter in Rocky’s life.
LEIGH WHITTEN: They don’t care what you lose. They don’t care that your reputation’s in the gutter. They don’t care. Take your time.
MALE VOICE: You didn’t know that you could tell so much from a taco chip, did you? You didn’t know. Now you, now you know. Now you know. Rocky’s family’s back up on their feet. That’s the good news. His lawyer says that they’re considering a class action suit against the Hartford because they believe there’s more of this going on. But the big point we want to make is the way we found out about Rocky and his situation is because he came to us. And that’s why we tell you to please come and tell us your stories. I was telling you guys that this morning. Go to abcnews.com. Find the website. Find my face. You just click on it. And you tell us the stories that you’re hearing about there. Maybe something happens. Maybe it doesn’t. We’ll try our best. I promise you that.