ERISA Plan Administrator May Disregard SSA and Treating Physician’s Disability Determinations

A ERISA plan administrator was not bound by findings that a plan participant who suffered from various medical conditions was completely disabled and unable to return to work made by both the Social Security Administration and the participant’s primary treating physician. Rather, the court was within its discretion to rely on the opinions of consulting, non-examining physicians that the participant was not completely disabled and was capable of sedentary work.


The plan administrator did not abuse its discretion when it determined the plan participant, who had undergone hip replacement surgery, was not disabled as the consulting, non-examining physicians and several treating physicians determined that the participant was not disabled, and although the participant's primary treating physician had indicated that the participant could not return to a 40-hour work week, the physician had given inconsistent opinions concerning the nature of the participant's disabling conditions. Carrow v. Standard Ins. Co., 664 F.3d 1254 (8th Cir.(Mo.) Jan 11, 2012).