Does My Occupation Or The Type Of Work I Do Have A Bearing On My Eligibility?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Yes. If your occupation places you at great risk of injury (parachute tester, for example) or illness (say, an asbestos remover) you can expect to pay more — or even be ineligible — for disability insurance.

Also, some occupations are relatively safe, but have a risk of a relatively minor illness or injury leading to a severe or even career threatening disability. For example, a minor injury to a finger could end the career of a concert pianist, or a slight unsteadiness of the hand or a back problem could prevent a urologic surgeon from continuing to operate on patients. (

A key clause in a disability policy describes what occupations you may be able to perform. For example, a policy may specify that you are considered disabled when you cannot perform your normal occupation. Suppose you are a dentist and you become injured so that you can no longer work on teeth. According to the above definition, you are disabled, and are entitled to receive disability payments. A policy with this occupational description offers strong protection for you. However, assuming you can find an insurance company willing to write such a policy, it will probably be more expensive ‘ require higher premiums — than one of the other possible descriptions.

On the other hand, a policy may state that you are disabled when you cannot engage in any similar occupation. In the above example, a dentist might not be considered disabled if he or she is still able to teach dental students. Similarly while a back problem may prevent the urologic surgeon from doing surgery in his exact field, he might be able to do other forms of surgery, and he certainly could conduct an office practice. This offers less protection, but such a policy would normally have lower premiums than the first type of policy.

A policy that describes you as being disabled when you cannot perform any occupation offers even less protection (and is more readily available and at a lower cost). In fact the test of disability for purposes of Social Security Disability is the inability to do any kind of job that exists in sufficient numbers anywhere in the United States. In this case, if the dentist cannot practice dentistry or teach dentistry, he or she might still be able to do some other type of work, such as serve as a retail cashier or toll collector or parking lot gate operator ‘ and thus he would not be considered disabled.

Many disability insurance policies have provisions that start with a more protective description for the first few months or years, and then change to a less protective description after the initial period. For example, a trial lawyer might initially be considered disabled if she could no longer do courtroom trial work (even though she could do office work in a law office) but after a year or two she might be considered disabled only of she could not do legal work, and after several more years, might be considered disabled if she could no longer work even in a clerical or retail job.

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