As a sales representative claiming disability benefits, you need to be aware of several issues and potential pitfalls when seeking long term disability benefits. “Sales representative” is a very broad term as the job task and duties are different for every employer. The duties of your specific job may require much more nuance, understanding, and evidence to make sure your claim is approved. Having handled hundreds, if not thousands of disability benefit claims for sales representatives, we want to educate you about the issues most sales reps encounter when filing for disability benefits.
In this salesperson disability benefit video, Gregory Dell and Stephen Jessup share their experiences and provide some helpful tips specific to people with sales based jobs. Contact any of our lawyers for a free immediate phone consultation and we will discuss your disability insurance claim.
- What is own occupation vs any occupation definition of disability?
- How do you accurately define the occupation classification of a sales representative?
- How do you accurately represent your job duties in a disability insurance claim?
- How do you obtain medical evidence and support needed for disability benefit approval?
- What if you work while disabled, then file a disability claim?
- Can I work part time in sales and collect disability benefits?
What is own occupation vs any occupation definition of disability?
Generally speaking, the overwhelming majority of insurance policies have an “own occupation” period of 24 months. This is the period where the insurance company looks at your inability to perform the material and substantial duties of your own occupation. After this period, we get into what’s known as “any occupation” definition of disability, which is the inability to perform any occupation or a gainful occupation based upon your training, education, and experience.
Every insurance policy is going to define that differently: as an example, some are going to indicate that the “any occupation” job has to have a certain earnings requirement, some will not. However, as a rule of thumb, you are looking at about 24 months of own occupation coverage, and after that, the insurance company will look into whether you are disabled from performing at any occupation.
Sometimes, there may be exceptions to the length of the “own occupation” period – it may be as short as 12 months or as long as 60 months, and sometimes, the period may not be defined at all. These instances are rare, however – most policies have the 24-month own occupation period as a standard.
How do you accurately define the occupation classification of a sales representative?
Most insurance companies use the Department of Labor Dictionary of Occupational Titles for reference when defining what your job entails. The trouble is, “sales representative“ is a very large classification because there are so many different fields and variants in the industry falling under this one huge umbrella. Insurance companies cut it down into two rough categories – in-house sales and outside sales. In-house sales is where you’re not leaving your office and trying to execute a sale, as opposed to sales reps who actually have to go and visit with clients and pound the pavement, if you will, to get the job done.
However, in real life, these two categories often overlap creating tons of subcategories which are not recognized. For example, you may have a job that can be classified as “in-house”, but you still go out for meetings; or you may really be out in the field doing things with a lot of travel which falls beyond what’s considered a sedentary type occupation.
So the biggest issue here is going to be the insurance company trying to cling to this idea of a sedentary job inside the office. You will need to accurately represent to the insurance company the type of sales you do and the field work that is required of you.
How many times have we seen it where a company will have a generalized job description for what you do that in no way, shape, or form matches your actual duties? But an insurance company will say, well, this is what the job description from the employer says, so this is what we’re going to base our vocational review on. They will not take into consideration the meeting or travel requirements that you actually do if they are not documented.
That’s why it’s so important to provide accurate information about your occupation and your actual duties. Prior to filing your disability benefits claim, ensure that the job description your employer has on file is a correct and accurate reflection of what you do.
How do you accurately represent your job duties in a disability insurance claim?
In addition to getting statements from your employer, it’s vital to keep a calendar or a log of your activities including meetings, travel, and so on. You may also show examples of your work product to show the type of work you do. Insurance companies often claim that as a salesperson, your job is to simply sit at your desk, make phone calls, and run inventory checks, so even if you can’t travel or physically see people, they assume you can still do your job.
However, you can prove that this isn’t the case. In sales, very often, it’s personal relationships that result in the sale. Whatever field you’re in, you’re meeting potential or existing customers, connecting with people, and selling them yourself to get them to buy the product. It’s a people to people type business, and personal relationships that you develop matter. So when you are uncomfortable or suffering, or start to not be available for phone calls, or miss deadlines or meetings when your customer really needs their product, they’re not going to come back to you, and you’re going to start to see sales suffer.
Another aspect to think about is the product that you are selling. Are you selling, for instance, farm equipment? Or are you just selling medical equipment? Do you have to bring samples with you? How much do those samples weigh? How much do you have to carry? All of this matters when you’re filing your claim.
Finally, it’s important to keep a log of all your outside-of-office activities, for example, airline information about flights you’ve taken, a calendar of your meetings, and so on. Having a record of mileage and meeting logs can be very helpful when supporting your claim.
How do you obtain medical evidence and support needed for disability benefit approval?
Accurately representing your occupation and your duties is vital, but getting the medical evidence and support is another big piece of the puzzle. Most sales representatives have employer-provided insurance (you may have an individual disability policy, but the vast majority of claimants tend to have employer-provided insurance), and your case is only truly as strong as the written documentation that’s going to be submitted to the insurance company.
This is why you need to make sure your doctor is accurately describing your physical restrictions and limitations. These will vary depending on your medical condition; you may have a bad neck, a bad back, chronic pain – but whatever it is, it’s crucial that your medical evidence accurately reflects your condition and the subsequent limitations you have. As an example, objective medical evidence such as MRIs and EMGs can verify the basis of the problems you are describing.
What if you work while disabled, then file a disability claim?
Often, people continue to work despite their disability hoping they can still do the job. If you’re in a bad accident and break a bone, for example, the change in your circumstances is instant and obvious. But when you are in chronic pain or have another chronic condition, the change may be gradual, and at first, people often try to carry on working. But the body can only take so much, and as their condition worsens, they file for disability benefits. However, the insurance company then looks at the claim and asks: you have been working despite your disability, so why can’t you continue working? What has changed?
This is why you need a well-documented medical history to show exactly why you are no longer able to work. Before you file a claim, you need to make sure there is documented medical evidence to support the fact that your medical condition has changed.
Be sure to always make your doctor appointments and have everything documented properly. If there is testing that can verify your symptoms, get that testing done prior to submitting any claim to an insurance company. That’s really the bedrock of any of these disability claims.
Another issue to watch out for is your outcome. If you continue working and your sales do not suffer, the insurance company may ask, why are you telling us you can‘t do the job? From their point of view, if you continue working and your results do not change, why are you claiming the disability benefits? It’s a tough situation, because on paper, your performance has not decreased, while realistically, you are suffering. There is no easy way to accurately present it, and it’s a tricky situation. In our experience, this is a case by case discussion, and it’s best to speak to an attorney and figure out a roadmap of how you are going to support your claim before you pull the trigger and file it. You need to make sure you can clearly establish and show the change in your circumstances.
Can I work part time in sales and collect disability benefits?
Your policy may allow you to work part-time and collect either or portion or all of your disability benefits. If you have the ability to cut back on your work or work on a part time type basis then this may also make it easier for your disability claim to be approved. If you have a reduction of income rather than a complete loss of income, a lot of insurance policies are going to allow you to collect a percentage of your disability benefit. This is known as a partial or residual disability, which can be a really good transition in your situation and it’s usually much easier to get your claim approved.
As you can see, there are a lot of things you need to be aware of to make sure you are in the best position to get your disability benefit claim as a sales representative approved. Insurance policies can be tricky to navigate, and often, the best course of action is to consult a disability lawyer. We always offer a free initial consultation to help you better understand what you need to think about before filing the claim, and we’ll provide you with a free courtesy review of your disability policy. Regardless of what stage your claim is at, we can help you: our lawyers are available anywhere in the country, and we’re just a phone call away.
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