The Washington Post recently published an article addressing one of the common challenges we face in presenting long term disability claims. Although the article focuses on Social Security disability, the concepts are equally relevant to group long term disability claims under the federal law known as ERISA.

Most ERISA-governed long term disability policies contain an “own occupation” definition of disability for the first twenty-four months. This means you recover benefits if you cannot perform your usual occupation.

After that, most group LTD policies move to an “any occupation” standard of disability. To keep recovering disability benefits, you must prove there is no occupation you can perform for which “you are otherwise suited by education, training and experience.” This is basically the same standard used by the Social Security Administration.

The Post article brings light to an issue we routinely face in fighting with ERISA disability insurers. Like the Social Security Administration, ERISA disability insurers use “vocational experts” to analyze whether there are unskilled (meaning you don’t need to have any prior experience to do them) jobs that fill within your work restrictions.

These vocational experts refer to the same out-of-date resource described int eh article, the United States Department of Labor’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) to identify proposed alternate jobs. As noted in the article, there is a serious problem in that the DOT hasn’t been updated since the 70’s. Meanwhile, the nature of work itself has changed dramatically. This is mainly due to technological advancements and the offshoring of many unskilled jobs.

In short, many of the jobs listed in the DOT no longer exist in the American job market. For instance, the Post article focuses on a disability applicant whose claim was denied based on the ridiculous notion that he could find work as a “nut sorter” or “dowel inspector” in 2022. These jobs do not exist anymore, but the 50-year-old DOT still says that they do.

We have seen disability insurance companies deny claims based on similarly outrageous allegations. An experienced disability attorney should understand the need for a reality-based analysis of the availability of alterative jobs. Where appropriate, we will retain our own vocational experts to explain how using out-of-date data can lead to absurd results.

This is just one of many examples of how filing a disability claim can be a minefield for the inexperienced. Contact us for a free case evaluation if you think your insurer might be analyzing your disability claim based on stale or inaccurate information. We can help set the record straight.

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