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Unum: the Gift of Giving and Taking Away

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While Unum donates $300,000 to a girls’ leadership program, the giant health insurer is accused of wrongfully terminating long-term disability benefits

Chicago, ILYet another lawsuit was filed in November against First Unum for allegedly denying long-term disability benefits. In the same month, Unum announced to the media that it had donated $300,000 to a high-school girls’ leadership program.

Along with this charitable announcement, policy holders who have been denied disability benefits or wrongfully terminated are likely more than disgruntled knowing that Unum and its employees in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland contributed more than $12.8 million in corporate and employee contributions and volunteered more than 77,000 hours to charitable organizations in 2017.

On its website, Unum states that: “Every year, we direct significant resources to organizations and initiatives focused on our three pillars of giving: education, health and wellness, and arts and culture. Yet the company is hit with so many claims of wrongful denial.

The latest claim against Unum was filed Nov. 1 in Cook County Circuit Court alleging breach of contract and bad faith. Steven Fox, a former financial securities trader and adviser, claims Unum wrongfully terminated his benefits despite being diagnosed with a heart condition in 2014 that left him totally disabled. Fox’s lawsuit states that Unum initially approved his disability claim in July 2014 and then terminated his benefits in 2017. Fox claims that Unum terminated his benefits before conducting an investigation. (Cook County Circuit Court case number 18-L-011905)

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Unum also boasts that its “commitment to social responsibility includes helping millions of people gain affordable access to financial protection benefits and creating a world-class workplace for its employees.” Also in the news (Bloomberg) is how Unum adds more customer service reps on the busy Monday after Thanksgiving and “Unum tries to make Red Hot Monday enjoyable for its customer service representatives by adding food and fun activities. Even the company’s president and CEO, Rick McKenney, hangs out with them to show his support.”

But such charity and empathy do not appear to be extended to policy holders who often don’t even get a phone call telling them their benefits have been denied.

Unum’s policy requires claim handlers to call their policy holders before benefits are denied and then to send a written notice. But many representatives are uncomfortable calling claimants, so most insurance handlers in general just mail out a written notice, according to Unum claim denials attorneys at Uscher, Quiat, Uscher & Russo, P.C. “As you can imagine most people will not receive the severance of benefits or denial news very well so many Unum claims handlers simply skip the calling in person step.”

Unum also says that, “Beyond giving back, the company’s commitment to social responsibility includes helping millions of people gain affordable access to financial protection benefits… and creating a world-class workplace for its employees.

As for “creating a world-class workplace for its employees”, Unum outsourced to a company called Lucens -- its third-party paper chaser – to hunt down every nickel and dime associated with SSDI with the goal to collect overpayments from claimants.

Perhaps Unum should review its denials (as it was ordered to do back in 2002) before being philanthropic…

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