The Edge Series: What Does “Any Occupation” Mean?

The lawyers in our firm are focused on helping people with disability policies and ERISA claims. We want to give you the edge in understanding your policy. Today, we want to help you understand what the term “any occupation” means in your disability policy.

Any occupation in the disability policy pertains to any job that exists in the national economy. Usually, it means a full-time occupation.
Both private and group disability policies include that term. Usually, they have a change in the definition of disability from “own occupation” to “any occupation.” Frequently, that occurs after 20 or more months of disability benefits have been paid. Some policies may set that at a lower mark such as after 12 months, and some may set it at a higher level such as 36 months.

There are also usually provisions narrowing the meaning of “any occupation” to any occupation that you can perform due to your education, training, and experience.
Some policies further limit the definition to a gainful occupation, such as one that makes 60% or more of what you were making.

Many people think of the “any occupation” definition as being disabled for Social Security purposes.
The Social Security Administration doesn’t use that term but rather evaluates whether you are able to perform substantial, gainful activity (SGA). SGA refers to the ability to earn monies in excess of the limits allowed under law, and that is a different standard to meet. For non-blind persons, that amount is only $1,350 per month in 2022. For blind persons, that is $2,260 per month. Many policies provide any occupation that is easier than that standard. Unfortunately, many insurers ignore the fact and many deny your claim, even if you have SSD. That does not mean that you meet their definition of any occupation.

Understanding the “any occupation” definition is very important.
Many people who are restricted from performing their occupation strongly identify with the need to work. They truly want to do something. After all, work is good for the soul. Many policies provide the ability to work and still receive disability benefits. It may well continue, often for a reduced amount, as long as earnings are beneath a certain level. It is critical to know what your policy says.

Remember our ERISA attorneys and long-term disability lawyers are here to help if you run into problems. Contact us at the first sign of trouble with your disability claim.

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