Thursday, March 8, 2012

Work Disability vs. Life Disability and Aloha Spirit

In Hawaii, on vacation, enjoying the aloha spirit!

Hawaii certainly has its workers' compensation issues and those issues certainly are no different than any other state's issues.

And though I'm on vacation, that doesn't mean that I stop working. In fact, I have found that I don't like not working.

One would think that vacation means Rest, Relaxation, and Recreation - well it does, but not in the same manner for me as it does for someone else. My mindset is different than others. For me, the three Rs include work, because that reduces my anxiety - knowing that my business continues to move forward without complication, without error, without problem, in my physical absence.

Hey, I get my Rest - instead of 5 hours of sleep I don't start squirming until after 6 hours of sleep. I get my Recreation - yesterday I got in 57 miles of beautiful Hawaiian scenery on my bicycle and another 5.5 miles of sandy beach walking with my wife. And I have had abundant Relaxation with our hosts touring the island, fine dining ... and making sure that the business is still there, serving our customers with the best that we can in workers' compensation publishing and data services.

For my college roommate though, who is now a school district superintendent, highest on the ladder of executive staff reporting to the board of trustees, the three Rs means complete isolation from work - he wants nothing to do with work. The three Rs for him are LOTS of sleep (like 10 hours), LOTS of golf (18 holes every day), and LOTS of great dining, beer, wine and spirits (okay, I like the last component too). But don't bother him at all about anything that might suggest work. Work introduces anxiety to him, the exact opposite of effect on me.

Our mindsets are completely different. I LOVE my work. My college roommate LOATHES his work.

It is the LOVE vs. LOATHE component of the work equation that determines how we approach our daily lives.

It is the LOVE vs. LOATHE component of the work equation that determines how people approach the issue of work disability (note that I said "work disability" because this is far, far different than "life disability").

The workers' compensation claims process is very complicated, very frightening, and will reflect a work disability mindset if the worker loathes his or her work.

I recently spoke with a young lady who has been off work for over 8 months now on essentially a minor injury claim. She wanted to know what to do because of union contractual provisions affecting return to work - her subsidized full pay was ending and consequently she was going to start getting regular temporary total disability indemnity which would cut her weekly income significantly (she is a union school employee) and there was a huge problem with the Qualified Medical Examiner (QME) doctor (not only was the report very late but the last 2 pages describing disability, etc. were CLEARLY the wrong claimant!) so she was waiting for a new panel and in California the QME panel process takes a very long time.

She was not represented and wanted to know if she should get an attorney. I counseled her not to get an attorney for various reasons but mostly because the Third Party Administrator (TPA) was doing a good job in my opinion (also I know the adjuster on the file, had done work for her in the past, and I know the adjuster IS very good, conscientious and does as much as possible for the worker), benefits were timely paid, she was still getting medical treatment (clearly palliative) and there really were no issues to dispute other than the fact that under her union contract her subsidized pay was ending.

This young lady didn't need an attorney, she needed the case closed so that she could move on with her life - that was absolutely clear to me in our discussion.

There is a good body of evidence suggesting that the single biggest factor affecting disability status is job satisfaction.

So in our conversation I asked probing questions about her job satisfaction - and the truth finally emerged: she did not want to go back to that job because it was an awful job.She LOATHED her job. It was better to be disabled than to do that job, for that employer, under the supervision of that manager...

She answered her own questions about disability status! She was NOT disabled enough to try something new, but she certainly was disabled enough not to go back to the old job.

I told her to get her case settled ASAP, to work with the adjuster to do that, and to go do what she really wanted to do, which was to go back to school, get an advanced degree and move on with her career and life.

Work mindset established the disability mindset and the disability mindset set up the rules for disability status.

We in workers' compensation want people to return to work. But return to work isn't enough. If the job is loathed there can be no return to work - it is better to just let that worker close the case as soon as possible to let them move on with their lives and careers.

People will find their paths in life if allowed to do so. Disability mindset interferes with self realization, self fulfillment. Without the "self" there can be no rehabilitation past the disability.

Return to work can not be forced, it can not be taught, it can not be determined. It is within the self to return to work - it is a mindset, the ability to live with Aloha.

So it is from Hawaii I bid everyone Aloha: all one needs to know to interact rightfully in the natural world.

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