Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2014


In Copyright


This essay, prepared in connection with the Drexel Law Review Symposium, ERISA at 40: What Were They Thinking?, examines ERISA’s regime for administering benefit claims and, in particular, the requirement that participants exhaust their plan’s review procedures before filing suit to recover benefits. Like other key elements of ERISA’s claims regime, the exhaustion requirement is a judicial creation that is not articulated in ERISA’s text. Interestingly, former congressional staffers who attended the Symposium said they assumed participants would be required to exhaust plan review procedures but failed to include such a requirement in the legislation. After reviewing the development of the exhaustion requirement and the debate over its merit as a matter of policy, the essay concludes with an examination of evidence from the text and legislative history of ERISA’s remedial provisions. This evidence suggests that ERISA’s drafters rejected the idea that participants should have to satisfy a prerequisite, such as the exhaustion requirement, before filing suit to enforce benefit rights.

Publication Title

Drexel Law Review

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