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UNUM Denies Claim for Essential Employee with Long COVID

Business executives did not stop flying around the world in private jets due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No one knows this better than our client, a corporate flight attendant in St. Augustine, Florida. Before the pandemic, our client loved working at NetJets, one of the top private aviation companies in the country. She was known for her dedication to and passion for her job, and because of her impeccable services to jet owners and passengers, was regularly assigned to global tours with the company’s most valued clients.

Unfortunately, this means our client was exposed to COVID-19. As an essential worker, she could not work from home, and NetJets never required its customers to wear masks, nor took any steps to alleviate its crew members’ exposure to the virus. After an 8-day tour visiting several COVID-19 hotspots, our client tested positive for COVID-19.

Her initial symptoms were mild, but they got worse over time. After a month, our client still had a headache, sore throat, and metallic taste in her mouth. Her employer required employees to be symptom-free for at least 10 days before returning to work, so our client could not resume her job even after a 14-day quarantine.

Our Client Begins to Experience the Symptoms of Long COVID

Worse still, new symptoms started to appear. Our client started experiencing intense pain in her muscles and joints, insomnia, excessive fatigue, chest heaviness, brain fog, and occasional headaches accompanied by light-headedness while standing. Not only has she been unable to return to work, but she also struggles with the tasks of daily living. Our client has not had 7 consecutive days without symptoms since testing positive for COVID-19 in July 2020.

Naturally, our client has actively sought out medical and therapeutic treatment with hopes of getting back to work and resuming her normal life.

Long COVID Diagnosis

Instead, doctors have diagnosed our client with long COVID. Her medical records clearly reflect that her lingering post-COVID symptoms have significantly restricted her physical and mental capacity, rendering her unable to return to work.

With her symptoms, our client cannot work 10-to-14-hour days spent mostly on her feet, nor work 8 consecutive days before a period of rest. She cannot handle massive catering orders in boxes weighing more than 50 pounds, clean and vacuum the aircraft, make beds, take out the trash, or use onboard safety equipment to prepare for emergencies.

With her fatigue, mental fogginess, and muscle and joint pain, in fact, our client would be in no shape to pass the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) training she needs to return to her job. According to our client’s physicians, her “functional capacity is clearly down,” and “she is incapable of returning to work.”

Before COVID-19 and long COVID changed our client’s life for the worse, she loved cooking, keeping her home, bicycling around her neighborhood, and entertaining friends and family. Her illness has stripped the color and joy from her life. All she wants is her life back, including her job, which she loves and misses.

Doctor’s Notes Indicating Long COVID

The reality of the situation is that our client cannot work, nor uphold the strong work ethic and commitment to excellence she previously demonstrated in every aspect of her life. The overwhelming evidence proves that our client was, is, and remains totally disabled.

Her physicians have noted:

  • Lingering fatigue
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Headaches
  • Lightheadedness
  • Cognitive challenges
  • Chest pain, pressure, or tightness
  • Rapid or fluttering heartbeat
  • Arthralgia (joint stiffness)
  • Back pain
  • Muscle and joint pain and stiffness

Although many of our client’s tests have come back normal, her doctors have explained that persisting symptoms after COVID-19 infection are not uncommon and recommended that she not return to work until she is 10 days free of symptoms. All our client’s doctors agree that she is suffering from long COVID or post-COVID 19 syndrome – and that she should not perform her duties as a corporate flight attendant due to her limited mental and physical capacity.

Despite all this, our client has not given up. She has gone through every test imaginable to get to the source of her problems and tried every possible solution. Our client has undergone extensive physical therapy – to the point the therapies had to cease due to chronic fatigue and an inability to recover quickly.

Life or Death Stakes

COVID-19 still affects our client’s chest pressure and causes palpitations, and researchers have found that the virus can leave patients with cardiac injuries. If our client were to experience active cardiac inflammation, she could cause further cardiac injury or sudden cardiac death. How could UNUM fail to see that the stakes for our client are literally life and death?

Overwhelming Objective AND Subjective Evidence

In addition to all this, UNUM has in its possession a functional capacity evaluation (FCE) that reflects less than sedentary capabilities. It has letters from our client’s husband and work colleagues reflecting the mental and physical toll COVID has taken on our clients. Those closest to our client can see that she is exhausted – and that she cannot safely perform her duties as a NetJets flight attendant. Our poor client cannot even make a simple meal when she could previously prepare a 5-course meal for 10 people “in her sleep.”

UNUM’s Wrong and Unreasonable Denial

UNUM was not only cruel in denying our client’s LTD claim, but its denial was also wrong and unreasonable. The Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) recognize long COVID as a disability. Just because the disability is new, and researchers are still trying to understand it, does not mean that the illness is not a qualifying medical condition for disability insurance purposes.

By pretending that our client’s disability is not legitimate and denying her claim for LTD benefits, UNUM has failed to act in its policyholder’s best interests and violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). UNUM put its own financial interests above all else and ignored medical records and opinions from doctors trying to do the best for our client.

To justify its unreasonable denial, UNUM highlighted notes saying that our client did not have a cough, misinterpreted medical testing designed to rule out other diagnoses, and falsely claimed our client was not disabled because she “appeared alert during a doctor’s visit.”

We simply cannot think of more disrespectful “reasons” to deny insurance benefits to a woman who has lost everything to the very disease that has caused a worldwide health crisis, and its newly discovered long-term consequences.

Dabdoub Law Firm Gives UNUM a Chance to Correct Its Failures

In our appeal, Dabdoub Law Firm asked UNUM why it failed to acknowledge our client’s genuine and severe disorder. We also let the insurance company know that we would not hesitate to turn to litigation if necessary.

Given another chance to do the right thing, UNUM corrected its denial and gave our client the LTD benefits she deserved.

Disability Insurance Companies Have Lawyers. Shouldn’t You?

If you are facing a long-term disability claim denial like the one outlined in this blog, you should consult an experienced disability lawyer as soon as possible. Fortunately, you’re already here. At Dabdoub Law Firm, our lawyers specialize in disability claims with insurance companies.

Why Us?

  1. Our law firm has proven expertise in disability insurance claims.
  2. Our practice was built to fight for people who were wrongly denied long-term disability benefits.
  3. We have fought every major disability insurance company and recovered millions of dollars in disability benefits for our clients.
  4. We have a long track record of success and have won major disability lawsuits that helped improve the law and create important protections for disability claimants.

Because federal law applies to most disability insurance claims, we do not have to be located in your state to help.

All our lawyers commit every day to helping people get disability benefits from insurance companies. Get in touch to get help with:

Call us at (800) 969-0488 or send us a message online to set up a free consultation with one of our skilled disability attorneys.