Vocational Assessments for “Any Occupation” Provision in ERISA Cases


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When processing of an ERISA case occurs, the claimant needs to undergo an assessment after a standard 24 months to determine if he or she has the capacity to perform within any occupation. The provision in these cases may alter what judgment renders and what earning potential is possible based on the specific person.

The individual in an ERISA plan usually has an assessment attached that will determine if he or she is able to perform any occupation. However, the classification of any occupation is often unclear. The person may need more information on what this means exactly. This may affect whether he or she is able to continue the same job and keep working with his or her own occupation. If the disability affects the remaining capacity to retain the job, he or she may need to look for another either as part-time or full-time. Depending on the circumstances, this could then disqualify the person in the ERISA plan.

What Is "Any Occupation"?

The Vocational Assessment will determine if the person is able to use another occupation to keep up his or her earnings through education he or she has earned, skills acquired or experience with other or current jobs. Any occupation then becomes any other job or career he or she is able to perform based on these factors and the disability or infirmity. The courts involved usually place a higher burden of assessing the person when the vocational expert will establish what type of other jobs the claimant may perform or engage in based on the disability. Often, the disability circumstances disqualify the current occupation, and this leads to the claim and problem.

The Connection of Any Occupation in ERISA

Many employees of a company have long-term disability, pensions and even Social Security as an option when the time of employment may end. Through the ERISA program, it is possible to receive the benefits once the individual is no longer an employee. However, before this occurs, it is possible that disability of either partial or permanent circumstances will harm the person and lead to the inability to remain at the same job. Then, he or she will need to proceed through an assessment to determine if any occupation is possible in light of the disability. Hiring a lawyer to ensure fair treatment and a protection of personal rights is generally recommended.

The Circumstances of Disability

The assessment of the individual in an ERISA case for any occupation may need multiple assessments based on the type of disability. The circumstances may also change based on the state where the person resides. He or she could suffer from a disease or health condition due to the company he or she worked at, or he or she may suffer physical disability through age or working conditions. To ensure that the person may continue to earn wages from any job, the assessment needs to determine if any work of any job could occur after the disability is no longer an issue or during permanent disability circumstances.

Assessment and Gainful Employment

The vocational assessment necessary to apply to the employee will usually determine if the person has options to continue work with any occupation available where a skill or knowledge may garner the work. However, the assessment may prove that the person has little skill or the ability to gain a new skill for gainful employment. If through the process the court holds that the participant in the ERISA program is unable to acquire or retain gainful employment, he or she may receive a reinstatement of benefits after they are not available for some time. Additionally, the involved courts may reject an argument that any occupation at all could provide enough to live upon when it is either at or under the mean wage for the state.

Legal Support in ERISA with Any Occupation

Using the mean or average wage within the state is not the best comparison based on the skills and qualifications of the individual in question. After working for the same company for ten or more years, he or she would have a better understanding of certain matters than someone fresh from college. When the company or agency fails to show that just any job is a valid assessment, the participant in ERISA may succeed in his or her claim. Hiring and working closely with a lawyer may provide the opportunity to demonstrate to the courtroom how the assessment for any occupation is not sufficient.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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