U.S. Department of Labor Proposes Extension of Applicability Date of New Disability Claims Procedures
On October 12, 2017, the DOL issued a proposed rule to delay for 90 days (through April 1, 2018) the applicability of the final regulations which amended the claims procedure requirements for ERISA-covered employee benefit plans that provide disability benefits. The final regulations were issued by the DOL in December 2016 and, as issued, would apply to claims for disability benefits filed on or after January 1, 2018. (Note: a more detailed discussion of the final regulations is available in our prior blog post.) Following the DOL’s issuance of the final regulations, various stakeholders asserted that the final regulations would drive up disability benefit plan costs and cause an increase in litigation and, in doing so, impair workers’ access to disability benefits. The DOL seeks public comments on its proposed 90-day delay of the applicability date of the final regulations in order to solicit additional public input and examine regulatory alternatives. If the proposed rule is finalized, the amendments made via the final regulations would become applicable to claims for disability benefits that are filed on or after April 1, 2018, rather than January 1, 2018. Consequently, employer sponsors of ERISA-covered employee benefit plans that provide disability benefits may decide to wait to amend such plans for compliance with the final regulations pending the outcome of the DOL’s review.