If you’re fighting a denial on an ERISA law disability claim, there’s a pretty good chance that your insurers have used terminology such as your “skill level” without actually explaining what it means.
Generally speaking, jobs are broken down into three skill level groups: unskilled or semi-skilled, skilled, and very skilled. These jobs are then further categorized by numbers ranging from 1 to 9. Jobs in the 1-3 range are considered “unskilled” or “semi-skilled.” Those that fall between 4 and 6 are called “skilled,” and “very skilled” jobs rate between 7 and 9.
How Is Your Skill Level Decided?
In ERISA disability insurance claims, vocational experts frequently use the Dictionary of Occupational titles as a guide.
- Unskilled and semi-skilled jobs are defined as those that take 30 days or less to learn and don’t help people learn any new job-related skills.
- As far as Skilled jobs go, there is some overlap between semi-skilled and skilled labor, but the DOT generally defines skilled work as something that someone will spend between three and six months learning to do. These jobs can involve risk and may need people with a decent level of coordination.
- Very skilled jobs are the types of jobs that require people to go through at least six months training and education, and often these skills can take several years to master. These are positions that tend to require vocational school, college, or even higher degrees.
It’s important to be careful of how you word your answers when talking about what you do at work. Any experienced disability insurance attorney can tell you that it’s easy to make a lower level job sound more “skilled” than it is by unintentionally talking it up. Unfortunately, we’re trained to do just that, but it is important to keep your job descriptions simple and not embellish anything. You need to emphasize the physical, mental and cognitive requirements of your occupation, keeping in mind that the point of the claim is to show why you can no longer physically perform that job.
The lesson from all of this is that the more skilled you appear to be, the greater the likelihood that your disability insurance company will deny your claim, saying that you could do some other form of work because of your skills. In short, don’t overemphasis or brag on marginal skills or education. Finally, in your disability application describe your job in the most physically demanding way you can.
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