Disability Evaluations

By Alan Brandis, Ph.D.

In the event of an injury arising out of employment, or an illness which renders you unable to work, it is likely that you will return to work as quickly as possible. However, when it does occur that a return to work is significantly delayed or put off indefinitely, due to ongoing health problems, you may find yourself fighting to obtain disability benefits.

Different states have vastly different policies in regard to the type of benefits available to injured or ill workers. For example, California (where I was trained and certified as a Qualified Medical Evaluator for the California Workers' Compensation system) has among the most liberal policies, written into law, to protect the rights of workers to obtain workers' compensation benefits, including benefits paid due to purely psychological or emotional injuries which arise out of the activities of employment. Georgia, on the other hand, is much more stringent in how it applies the laws and it may be quite a bit more difficult here to prove that you have a right to the benefits, which could include income as well as vocational rehabilitation services (job training).

If you were not injured on the job, but simply have an illness (whether physical or emotional) which precludes you from working, you may apply to the Federal government for benefits under the Social Security Disability Program. Typically, claims will be denied at first, especially if your claim is for emotional or mental illness. After going through the first stages of the appeal process and being again turned down, you may get an attorney to help you appeal your case to an administrative law judge in a formal hearing (Social Security pays the attorney's fees). If you go through such a hearing, you need to present the most comprehensive information possible about the nature and extent of your illness, and the illness' effect on your ability to function within an employment setting.

A comprehensive evaluation will involve one or more face-to-face interviews with a psychologist, as well as a series of psychological tests which will assess the extent of your emotional problems and how impaired your functioning may be in a work setting. The purpose of this evaluation is not just to prove how ill you are so you can get a check for the rest of your life. We believe that the sooner you get back to work of some kind, the less likely you are to become permanently disabled and dependent on the government. The evaluation will pinpoint areas of strength as well as weaknesses, and will guide us (along with other doctors who may be involved in your care) in setting up a treatment plan for you.

Coordination of the various professionals who may be involved in your care - orthopedic surgeons, internists, neurologists (for brain and head injury), anesthesiologists (to help with Chronic Pain Syndrome), chiropractors, physical therapists, psychiatrists (for antidepressants and similar medicines), and others - is essential for the effort to work. The psychologist is uniquely positioned and trained to interface between these various disciplines and help ensure that all aspect of your treatment are working together.

In addition, during the time that you are waiting for your case to be decided, it is likely that you will have very little money to pay for medical or psychological treatment. If your attorney feels that you have a strong case, and we concur, it may be possible (based on current caseload and the number of other, similar cases) for us to provide assessment and treatment to you on a lien basis, as most attorneys do. That means that we would agree to wait for payment until your case is settled, since your settlement will then be able to pay your medical bills. Please call and inquire about a Workers' Comp or Disability Lien Plan, or have your attorney contact us.