Friday, March 28, 2008

Wow. It's been two months since I posted anything here. It's not for lack of material, that I can assure you. Living with three kids, enough stuff happens around here to fill a book. I'll come back to my kids antics later, but for now I want to share someone else's story.

This story is about Debbie Shank. Debbie was a Wal-Mart employee up until a near fatal car accident that left her with permanant brain damage. She must live out the remainder of her life in a nursing home, the severe short term memory loss rendering her unable to live with her family and continue working. Debbie's family sued the driver at fault for the accident and won a $1 million settlement. After paying the attornies fees, $417,000 went into a trust fund for Debbie's care. If any of you have had a relative in a nursing home, you know that money won't last long. But it is something to help out. Debbie's husband has cancer and works two jobs to try and support his family but recently had to divorce Debbie so that she qualified for more financial aid. And to make matters even worse, the Shank's son was killed in Iraq while serving for our military.

Think this poor family's story can't get any worse, oh, it does. Wal-Mart has now sued Debbie Shank for the $417,000 that is in her trust fund. The reason? According to the fine print of her health insurance form, Wal-Mart has the right to take any monies received in a settlement for reimbursement of medical expenses paid out through the plan. They were suing her for more money but all she had was the $417,000 so the Supreme Court said that was all they could demand from her.

Wal-Mart's response to the family and public was that while the Debbie Shank case was sad, they owe it to the other plan members to put money back in to the plan when ever they can. They have to follow the plans strict guidlines.

Ok, so the plan dictates what Wal-Mart is legally entitled to receive. I understand that, we all do. However, I find it hard to belive that a company who posted $90 BILLION dollars in sales last quarter cannot find a way to make a charitable contribution to Debbie Shank in the amount of $417,000. This goes way beyond Supreme Court rulings and insurance plans, this is about common decency.They can rationalize this all they want, but we all know this is just wrong. The benefit plan may be entitled to the money but Wal-Mart can and SHOULD do better.

The link to the story is below. I'm encouraging every one to read it and send an email to Wal-Mart. Let them know what you think. Maybe if they feel the pain in their next sales report, they'll see Debbie Shank's story from a new perspective.

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Anonymous Jeremy said...

I did send an email to Wal-Mart and got the folloing response:

When our associates, or their family members, suffer injuries or medical conditions which are the responsibility of others, our plan steps in to pay covered medical expenses so the associate and their families don't have to worry about their bills or have large out-of-pocket expenses. It is only after the associate or their family member receives a monetary payment from the responsible party, that our health plan becomes entitled to reimbursement.

While the Shanks case involves a tragic situation, our responsibility is to follow the provisions of the plan which governs the health benefits of our associates. These plans are funded by associate premiums and company contributions. Any money recovered is returned to the health plan, not to the business. This is done out of fairness to everyone who contributes and benefits from the plan. The Supreme Court's denial of the Shank appeal concludes all litigation. The Court ruled that the benefit plan was entitled to the funds in the trust account, which was about $280,000, which is all it requested.

Thank you,
Wal-Mart Customer Relations

What really drives me about this is that Wal-Mart's policy says it has the right to recoup moneys it is not mandatory - they could be human and just let the poor woman live.

And until they do that I think I can find better places to spend my money

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy said...

Here is the link to contact Wal-Mart

9:23 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

That is the exact responce, word for word, that I got. Apparently they've had lots of emails about this, so they've had to generate a canned response.
I hope they feel enough pressure to do something. Wal-Mart treats their employees like crap.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Darryl Masterson said...

I have no problem finding somewhere else to shop.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Physicalchemist said...

Am I the only one who noticed that out of a $1,000,000 settlement Debbie only gets $417,000? By my reckoning her attorney took $583,000 which is a lot more than WalMart is taking.
Since she is no better off now than she was before the settlement, the only one who came out ahead in this deal is her attorney.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

That's a very good point. Her lawyer could have taken her on as a pro bono case so that after Wal-Mart recouped medical expenses, she'd still have money in the trust fund. It's terrible on all sides.

5:45 AM  

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