ERISA Preempts State Law

With respect to the protection of employee benefit rights, the statute grants exclusive jurisdiction to the federal district courts for civil actions brought by a participant or beneficiary, but provides an exception for actions brought by a participant or beneficiary to recover benefits due to him under the terms of the plan, to enforce his rights under the plan or to clarify his right to future benefits.

Courts Typically on Review ERISA Denials for an Abuse of Discretion

ERISA does not set out he appropriate standard of review for actions under § 1132(a)(1)(B) challenging benefit eligibility determinations. Firestone Tire and Rubber v. Bruch, 109 S.Ct. 948, 952 (1989). Addressing that statutory gap, the Supreme Court in Firestone held that, “[c]onsistent with established principles of trust law…a denial of benefits challenged under § 1132(a)(1)(B) is to be reviewed under a de novo standard unless the benefit plan gives the administrator or fiduciary discretionary authority to determine eligibility for benefits or to construe the terms of the plan.” Id. at 956-957.

ERISA and Social Security

Most group long term disability plans require claimants to apply for social security disability benefits. In fact, administrators often offer to assist claimants by referring them to a company that will represent them.