Sears cutting life insurance benefits for up to 90,000 retirees: report

Sears notified up to 90,000 of its retirees this month that it would be ending their life insurance benefits, CBS News reports.

Ron Olbrysh, the chairman of the National Association of Retired Sears Employees (NARSE), told the news agency this week that the company sent letters to eligible retirees notifying them that they would be losing their life insurance benefits on March 15.

But Olbrysh said he didn’t receive the notice until March 20.

{mosads}The notice reportedly offers retirees the option to convert all or a portion of their group coverage into an individual whole life policy and cover the costs of premiums.

One of the chain’s retirees, Tom Dowd, told the Chicago Tribune that he worked for the company for three decades before retiring from his role as a human resources manager in 1998. 

“I spent my adult life there,” Dowd told the paper, “and if nothing else, that requires a little bit of dignity as opposed to a letter saying your benefits are gone, and here’s how much you can pay to get them back.”

John Freeman, who retired from the chain in 2002 and heads up the retirees’ association chapter in upstate New York, told CBS News that the notices were sent to “people in their 80s that had had [life insurance coverage for] a long time.”

Olbrysh said insurance coverage was the “last benefit that retirees had” aside from getting discounts at the chain’s stores. 

He also told the publication that he does not know exactly how many retirees will be losing their benefits, but NARSE said the average age of retirees who were affected by the move is 80.

Olbrysh added that NARSE is considering challenging the retailer in court but said he and his team are weighing their chances of success in suing “a company that is dying.”

The move comes months after a U.S. bankruptcy court approved Sears’s request to pay as much as $25.3 million in bonuses to the company’s top executives and high-ranking employees in December. The company had filed for bankruptcy months before.

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