Are you a sales representative that is considering a long term disability insurance claim? Or maybe you already have a pending disability benefit claim. Through our experience in representing thousands of people with sales related jobs, we have prepared a video which discusses multiple issues that we commonly see in short and long term disability claims for sales people. We encourage you to contact any of our nationwide disability insurance attorneys for a free immediate phone consultation.  

The following interview with attorneys Greg Dell and Stephen Jessup highlights the occupation classification most sales representatives can fall under. It also addresses some common issues that hinder long-term disability claims from going ahead.


What is the definition of disability in most salesperson disability insurance policies?

The overwhelming majority of policies will have an “own occupation” definition of disability for the first 24 months. We have seen them as short as 12 months or as long as 60 months. As a general rule for the first 24 months a salesperson will qualify for long term disability benefits if they can not perform the material and substantial duties of their occupation. 

After the “own occupation” period ends, we get into what’s known as “The Any Occupation Period”, which is an employee’s inability to perform any occupation or a gainful occupation based upon training, education, and experience. Every policy will define this period differently. Some will require that the job have certain earnings, and others won’t. Once this is established, the question will be whether you are disabled from performing any occupation.

How do disability companies determine the duties of a salesperson?

In most cases the disability company start by looking at the Dictionary of Occupational Titles for salesperson, which many insurance companies use as their reference. This is because there are so many different fields of industry with these roles.  Sales representatives come under a vast umbrella. Most insurance companies try to cut it down to outside sales and in-house sales. They look at circumstances where employees are not leaving the office instead of visiting clients and pounding the pavement. The disability insurance companies will always try to minimize the duties of a sales rep to the easiest physical requirements possible. The job of a sales rep is performed differently for each and every employer, yet a disability company will try to generalize your pre-disability duties.

Salesperson disability insurance claim

When we talk about sales representatives being a broad category, we are considering representatives that only work in an office, are in the field some of the time, or those that spend all their time out in the field travelling. The definition in many of these group disability policies specifies job performance using the “national economy” definition of disability. How could that be a disadvantage for somebody facing a “national economy” definition of disability? 

The big issue will be the insurance company trying to place you into a sedentary job inside the office. As mentioned earlier, occupation classification in the national economy is typically derived from the Department of Labor Dictionary of Occupational Titles. And within that, the sales representative category will have an array of subcategories. 

What’s essential in this type of claim is clarifying your sales-type, or the fields you make the sales in. Are these being accurately represented to the insurance company? How many times have we seen a company generalize a job description that in no way, shape, or form matches the employee’s actual duties? Insurance companies will say:

“Well, this is what the job description from the employer says. This is what we’re going to base our vocational review on. It doesn’t talk about these travel requirements or cover these large regional swaths. So we’re not going to consider that.” 

In situations where outside travel is relevant– I have clients who are regional sales reps, covering multiple states and travelling four days of the week. Ensuring that the occupational information being provided indicates what you do is vital. Even if you’re able to work before filing a claim, make sure the job description on file is an accurate reflection of what you do when sent to the insurance company. 

It is essential to document and provide evidence of your pre-disability work duties

When we work with claimants who are sales reps, we really dig into how their job was done. We try to get statements from their employers. We also get statements from the client and go through the details of their duties. We try to get examples of products they were selling to help explain and prove the type of work that they were doing. 

A lot of salespeople in disability claims cases are told, “Your job is just to sit at a desk for six hours a day. You can make phone calls and run inventory checks. Even though you can’t travel or physically see people, we still think you can do your job.” We prepared detailed documentation in order to prove that this is not the case. 

I believe in sales you’re selling yourself. Most sales positions where you are outside the office are successful because the person likes you. Some sales representatives have many travel requirements and airline miles information is easy to obtain. Most sales representatives I have worked with keep mileage logs and meeting diaries detailing who, where and when they had meetings.

Another critical factor is the type of products you sell in your job. Are you selling 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? The key is to establish your work takes you outside the scope of a sedentary position.

Disability companies often ignore the fact that a salesperson is in a person to person business. When you’re selling a product that five or ten other companies are also selling, a personal relationship needs to be developed with the buyer. If you’re uncomfortable or suffering, you may not be available for phone calls. You may miss deadlines or meetings when your customer needs their product. Customers are not going to come back to you. Sales will begin to suffer. Following this, your employer will question what you are doing. Why aren’t you here? It’s a snowball effect. 

What Type of Medical Support Will a Salesperson need for Disability Benefit Approval? 

When seeking long term or short term disability insurance benefits, your case is only as strong as the written documentation that’s going to be submitted to the insurance company.  This documentation will depend on the nature of your medical condition. For example, suppose you have physical restrictions and limitations- bad back, bad neck. In that case, you will not only need evidence of treatment with doctors but documentation that accurately reflects your physical restrictions and limitations. If possible for your medical condition, you should always try to obtain objective medical evidence such as:

  • MRI’s
  • EMG’s
  • X-rays
  • CAT scans

Your medical records need to be well documented and thorough.  Many people continue to work despite medical problems. This can cause the insurance companies to claim that you can work with this condition. If you have been able to travel and complete your duties with this condition for quite some time, what has changed? When filing a claim, it is vital to have updated new information to show the medical condition has changed. Past medical records build a clearer picture of your condition deteriorating. Ensuring you see a doctor regularly and having everything well documented is critical. If testing can verify your symptoms, get that testing done before submitting any claim to an insurance company. That’s the bedrock of any of these disability claims. 

Regarding sales representatives who continue to work with a condition. Many of our clients have chronic pain, for instance, but continue to work. What happens if their sales don’t drop during this time, but they have put in a disability claim?

In cases like these, where it is evident that the claimant has previously been getting everything done at work required of them, we look at things from different angles. Maybe it has taken them twice as long to get it done.  It is about how we present the information. This is a common scenario and can be challenging, but it is not impossible. By continuing to work, you are displaying an ability to work. Therefore, it’s not technically a disability under the policy. In these situations, we must deal with them case by case discussing where each claimant wishes to get with their claim. It’s always better if clients have planned out a disability claim before actually filing the claim with a disability company. Speaking to an attorney beforehand and working out a roadmap is always the best way forward. 

In cases of chronic conditions, many clients have the option to cut back on their work, placing themselves on a part-time basis. Suppose they have a reduction of income. Many policies will allow them to collect a percentage of their disability benefit, which is like a partial or residual disability, creating a basis for an easier transition to getting a claim approved. Not every disability claim needs to be a complete stoppage of work and your disability policy may allow you to work in a limited capacity and still collect either a portion or all of your disability income benefits. 

In Summary

We have handled hundreds, if not thousands, of claims for sales representatives. These claims are often approved. However, there’s a lot of things you have to be aware of to put yourself in the best position to get approved. We always offer a free initial consultation. We’ll provide you with a free courtesy review of your disability policy. No matter what stage your claim is at, we can help you.  We welcome you to subscribe to our YouTube channel and reach out to us if we can help you!