March 16, 2010
I am an employee of AT&T Mobility in the retail sales division. I have worked for AT&T for almost two years. I was one of the store's top earners and trusted with managerial codes. In August of this past year(2009), I fell down the back steps at a rental home I was living at and injured my neck. Initially, I had a sore neck and a headache. I started vomiting the next day at work, I thought it was because I was on Chantix trying to quit smoking. As the days went by the pain became increasingly worse, until it was intolerable. On Sunday, August 9th I drove myself to St. Joseph's Emergency room. As I was driving, I was dry heaving and weaving because of the pain, my right eye was blurry and felt as if it were being ripped from my skull and my head and neck were splitting with pain. When I arrived at St. Joseph's my blood pressure was 161/101. They had me in a neck brace and in a room within 15 minutes. I was sent up for a CAT scan within minutes of arriving in the room. The results of the CAT scan showed blood in my spine and what appeared to be herniation in C5 and C6. I was told that I was to stay out of work and to see my Primary Care Physician immediately. I was prescribed pain medication and sent home.
At the time of my injury I had not yet acquired a PCP. I called my manager the next morning at 7:30 am and told her what happened. Her response was, “Oh you picked a great day for this!! The Big Wigs are coming today.”. I was expecting to get better and had a letter for rest. Instead of better things became increasingly worse. The pain increased, I developed numbness in the right side of my face and my right eye, coupled with the pain in my eye, and it became excruciating. I returned to the hospital two more times that week.
My mother came up from Georgia to look after me, and while she was there, she read my Union contract. She told me that my manager was to have already given me the contact information for short term disability and the information I needed to file. So, I tried to contact my manager. After a week of trying to contact my manager, and receiving no response. I contacted my local Union President and told him what was happening. He called my manager and left her a voicemail. I received a text message with a phone number at 4 pm on Saturday, August 15. There was no information with the text message, just a phone number.
On Monday, August 17 I called the number that had been text messaged to me the previous Saturday. It was an Human Resources Disability Department administered by Sedgwick CMS, a third party company that handled disability claims for AT&T. I filed my claim by following the voice prompt instructions, at that time I was given a claim number. The following day, August 18, 2009 I spoke with “my” disability case worker, Keith Adams. I was at that time told to fax my hospital records to him. My mother took me to Mission Hospital's Records Department and paid $25 for 50 pages of documentation on a CD. At that time my mother and I went to Kinko to fax the documentation. We were told that it would cost $75 and that they could not fax from a CD, that I had to go home and print out the 50 pages and bring them back.
I went home and searched the Internet for e-fax options. I found an e-fax company that would fax 100 pages per month for $10 per month, and that the faxes could be uploaded from the computer. I subscribed to that and faxed the information, after receiving email confirmation, I called Sedgwick and confirmed receipt of fax, my case worker, Keith Adams was not in. The next day I placed a call to Keith Adams, he was not in his office and I left him a message. I then spoke with a Customer Service agent to confirm receipt of the fax yet again and the agent confirmed the receipt of fax.
During this time, I had called my management on August 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, and 21. On August 25, I met with the Mission Trauma clinic at 8:30 am and then to my new PCP at MAHEC at 10:10 and reviewed the information from the hospital and trauma clinic.
On August 28, I went back to Mission to obtain the records from my appointment at the Trauma Clinic and then to MAHEC for the records of my appointment with them and faxed them to Keith Adams at Sedgwick. Again, Keith was not in and I left him a message after confirmation of fax with an agent.
I returned to MAHEC on Thursday, September 3 for a follow up, on September 9, I went to my first Physical Therapy Appointment with Care Partners West. On Thursday September 10 I returned to the Trauma Clinic were I was ordered to cease PT and was scheduled for an MRI because my symptoms were becoming worse. On Saturday, September 12 I went to Mission Hospital for an MRI.
I called Sedgwick on Thursday, September 17 because I had yet to hear anything back about my disability. I again could not reach my case manager, Keith Adams. So, I called back the next day, Friday, September 18 and was informed that I had been denied disability because Sedgwick had made an appointment to speak with my PCP and she did not take the call and they had to refer my case to their doctor whom determined I was not disabled. At this time I had yet to get back the results of my MRI.
On Friday, September 18, I called my PCP and asked her if she did not take the call, as I was denied because of it, only to find out that not only did she take the call, but she informed them(Sedgwick), that she was not comfortable with the form of the questions and that she would gladly, at that moment, draft a letter stating the facts of my condition as they knew them and that at this time I was unable to return to work pending the results of my MRI. Sedgwick declined saying they had enough information, and thanked her for her time. I immediately called my local Union President, Curtis Shew, and informed him of the situation. I told him that I would be in PT at 10:30am on Monday, September 21 and that since I would be in town I needed to speak with him. Curtis told me to call him after PT and that we would meet around 12:30 on Monday and I was to bring all of my documentation that I had sent to Sedgwick. The documentation included the 50 pages of hospital records, the Trauma Clinic notes, the notes from my PCP, and the PT evaluation. I sat in my car for two hours waiting for Curtis to call, he never did. I, to this day, still have heard nothing back from him.
Upon returning home I got on the Internet and found out whom my district representative was and called my District Union Representative. I spoke with her assistant, Francine. I called my District Union President, Betty Witte two times a day for five days in a row only to receive apologies from her assistant, Francine. On Monday, September 28, Francine finally told me that Betty Witte instructed her to have me email all of the information that I had for Curtis, and that she would take care of it. To this day, I have heard nothing from Betty Witte.
On September 23, I went to the office of Dr. Ralph Loomis at Carolina Spine and Neurosurgery to go over the results of my MRI with his PA Laurie Stoker. I then on small instruction from a Sedgwick agent, applied for an appeal. After 46 days I was reinstated on the basis of the information gleaned from my MRI.
I continued PT for 2 ½ weeks, at which point the symptoms had gotten so bad that I contacted Dr. Loomis personally and scheduled an appointment for surgery. I had my surgery on November 12, 2009. I did not have a herniation, I had shattered vertebra. I had to have a scope put down my spine to look for fragments, a discectomy, a cadaver bone implant and a titanium plate and four screws. I had spinal stinosis, and nerve impingement. I was discharged the next day and was forbidden to leave my house for any reason for one week due to risk of infection. I was told I was not to walk stairs, uneven pavement, or even lift a gallon of milk, as a gallon of milk weighs 7 pounds and my restriction was 5 pounds.
I received a letter from Sedgwick at this time stating that I had until January 18 to provide further documentation if I was to still be unable to return to work.
On December 8, almost one month post-op, I returned to Dr. Loomis' office and had an x-ray done and met with PA Laurie Stoker again to address what the next course of treatment would be. I was to start PT again on December 17 and was told that I was not to return to work until I completed physical therapy.
On January 12, 2010 I received a voicemail stating that my case worker, Keith Adams had spoken to my doctor and that he said I could return to work with accommodations and that I was to return to work within 24 hours. I returned the call and per usual, Keith was not in. I spoke with an agent that told me that Keith did not speak with my doctor, but according to the notes from my visit on December 8, 2009 I was able to return to work with accommodations I the proceeded to ask the agent what those accommodations were, and she told me she did not know. I asked her if my doctor had stated my accommodations they should have them on their file. She said they did not have them. I then asked her how, if they did not know what my accommodations were, how did my store manager know, and how would they have had the time to acquire them. She could not answer, I also pointed out to her that I had an official document signed by Keith Adams which stated that I was approved until January 18 and that was the date in which I provided my Neurosurgeon and PT staff, and that they were having a team meeting the next day and were to provide me the notes and recommendations by the due date of the 18th and that I wouldn't be able to get them any sooner. She said, well it says here you have 24 hours, I was denied the next day.
On January 15, 2010 I received my denial letter. The letter stated that I was denied my disability benefits because Keith Adams spoke with Dr. Loomis on January 7, 2010 and that Dr. Loomis clarified that repetitive motion restrictions would still allow me to do keyboarding and sit and type at a computer and that these restrictions were presented and accepted on January 8, 2010.
Now, ask yourself... does that sound the same as what was left on my voicemail, or what was told to me by the agent of Sedgwick. No, it doesn't. I brought the denial letter to my Neurosurgeon's office, the research was done and none of what was contained in my denial letter, office notes of December 8, or the message left on my voicemail were factual in any way. The entire letter, the entire reason for my disability denial were again completely and utterly fabricated.
Sedgwick CMS, employed by AT&T has innumerable lawsuits pending against them for the exact same type of fraud that this company has committed against me.
I am enclosing links to websites that list pending lawsuits, similar employee stories, and information regarding this company and the companies that employ them just for these types of tactics so that they do not have to pay benefits to their employees that not only depend on them, but have earned them.
Also, I want you to see how the CWA Union in North Carolina has completely disregarded the needs of a due paying member, in good standing, and left me to fend for myself without representation against this giant.
At this time, I am facing losing my position because this company has lied and has said I have not done what I am supposed to do and have not corresponded with them since before January 13. Which, is entirely untrue. They have also disregarded direct orders from my Neurosurgeon and my Doctor of Physical Therapy, and denied my disability. I have also had no support from my management, by way of email documentation or direction, except when I have sent an email asking for help, and then the response what short and vague at best.
I have sent this letter to Mr. Randall Stevenson, CEO of AT&T Mobility, I have also contacted my State Representative Heath Shuler, The North Carolina Insurance Division, The U.S. Department of Labor, CWA Local President, CWA District President, and the CWA National Office. I received no response from Mr. Stevenson, no response from my CWA Local or District representatives, the CWA National Offices said they could not help me because they had no “Mobility” representatives in their National offices and that the only thing I could do was to hand write a letter to the CWA National President Larry Cohen and mail it to him. I was told by my State Representative, the NC Insurance Division, and the U.S. Department of Labor they could not help me, if it wasn't Social Security I would have to get a lawyer and take Sedgwick CMS/AT&T to court. In my city, Asheville North Carolina, there is one lawyer that will handle this type of law and she charges $200 per hour, because according to a dozen or more local lawyers, there is no money in it.
With a little research of your own, I think this is a worthy story... I know it is of utmost importance to me. The last pay I received was on January 19, for $125 after Union dues, insurance, and taxes. I pleaded my case with my case manager's supervisor, Maritza Diaz. I sent her my medical information, the denial letter, the discrepancies, and a letter from my surgeon and stated that I should be reinstated due to the complete fabrication from her subordinate, and that I should not have to file an appeal and wait 45 more days because my case worker blatantly lied. Not only did I not get a response, I found out recently that I am no longer an “active” employee. Which, I may find out means I no longer have a job.