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Importance of Vocational Analyses in Long-Term Disability Claims

Employees in Chicago with long-term disability claims often ask why an insurer denied their claim if it had all the medical records. There can be a variety of reasons, but one few people expect is that the accuracy of a vocational assessment of the claimant’s occupation can determine the outcome of the claim, even if there is no disagreement over the medical limitations. Nowhere is this more important than in occupations involving considerable amount of computer work, like IT Support Professionals and Network Engineers, and medical conditions affecting your computer use.

In Johnson v. Hewlett Packard Enterprises Co., No. 19-cv-01878, 2021 WL 2254965 (D. Co. June 3, 2021), Johnson suffered from progressive Rheumatoid Arthritis. He worked in IT support. He claimed long-term disability benefits under his employer’s plan, governed by ERISA § 502(a). While Johnson’s doctors said Johnson could do no typing after his RA flareup, Sedgwick sent Johnson for an Independent Medical Examination. Sedgwick’s IME doctor said Johnson could type 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off. Sedgwick then obtained a vocational assessment concluding Johnson could type up to 40 minutes per hour, which was the high end of frequent computer use. It used that inference to conclude Johnson could perform his occupation in IT support, but it never specified the actual amount of keyboarding or typing required in IT Support.

The Court found that even if Sedgwick’s IME doctor’s conclusion was correct, 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off typing did not translate to 40 minutes per hour, and Sedgwick’s vocational analysis never stated precisely how much keyboarding or typing was required in IT support. The Court determined that the decision was arbitrary and capricious, though, explaining it could not determine that amount, but it surmised most such roles require such work more than half the workday.

If your occupation involves frequent computer use, and your illness or injury impairs your keyboarding or typing ability, there is a high risk a long-term disability insurer will mishandle your claim.  Call a skilled long term disability lawyer today.

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