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Getting Surveilled for Disability Evaluation

Holly was recently kicked off her private disability plan. After a year, she won back coverage. In this series on disability, she walks us through the various steps she took and what it was like to navigate the experience.

Unbeknownst to me, and I didn’t realize they could even do this, the private disability insurance company that has been providing me with coverage for over a decade, recently had me followed by a private investigator.

When did I learn I was under surveillance?

Months after requiring me to see an “independent” doctor, I received a letter notifying me that I’d been kicked off coverage. In the letter was a report stating that I had been followed by a private investigator hired by the company.

Where and when did they see me?

I learned they waited outside of my doctor’s office (knowing I had an upcoming appointment) where they “caught” me exiting the office with a large box. They were insinuating that someone with chronic migraine shouldn’t be able to carry anything ever. The box I was carrying, by the way, weighed less than a pound and was a Styrofoam box my doctor gave me to transport a sample of a medication that required refrigeration. They followed me from my doctor’s office to a grocery store (which is also my pharmacy) where they once again “caught” me carrying my reusable bags to the car (again, they were light and primarily carried medication I’d just picked up). Next, they followed me over 20 miles home at which time I was observed letting my dog out to walk around in the yard. I later learned that they had me followed on six different occasions to unearth this activity.

What did they conclude?

This report was sent to the ‘independent doctor” who barely examined me for review. This doctor reviewed the surveillance and stated that the video showed me doing errands while neither actively crying or vomiting. He claimed, in conclusion, this was proof that I was capable of working full-time.

How do I manage my life with unpredictable migraine?

Of course, we all know that migraine, even when it happens daily, is an invisible condition that offers random windows of time during which we are more functional than others. I live by myself and although I do have to ask my family and friends to help me with errands and driving me to appointments, I primarily try to handle pharmacy errands and doctor’s appointments on my own.

It seemed they were intimating that if I’m on disability, I should be house and bed-bound and any evidence of my ability to function even at the lowest level proved that I should be kicked off coverage.

Why me?

I had been chosen (perhaps randomly) to be investigated and later learned that the goal of any investigation would be to find any justification to kick me off coverage. One potential justification is that I’m relatively young and have a lengthy payout in front of me if I were to remain covered. The hard truth is that there is no one at a disability insurer who is looking out for our best interests. It’s all about money for them.

How has being surveilled made me feel?

When I was made aware of the fact that I’d been followed, I was outraged and felt very vulnerable - even becoming suspicious and paranoid that I was constantly being followed. It’s an awful feeling that has stayed with me, months later.

Have you ever been surveilled by a disability company? Are you on disability and concerned about being followed?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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