Tag Archives: return to work

Panthers’ Super Bowl Football Player (Thomas Davis) Joins the Big Game While Still Recovering from Surgery (or, in Work Comp Terms Panthers’ Employee Returns Full-Duty Pre-MMI)

Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Super Bowl 50 what a game! As a Panthers’ fan, it was depressing to see our usually high-scoring offense crushed by the Broncos’ defense. However, the Panthers’ defense kept us in the game until the bitter end. The dedication of Thomas Davis, a Panthers’ linebacker, was quite a site. Davis, who sustained a broken forearm in an earlier game, played through Super Bowl 50 with a surgically implanted plate and 11 screws in his right forearm. Davis shared a post-surgical photo after the Super Bowl on social media. In his post, Davis said:

This post is not about me, or how tough I am. It’s not to shine any light on me or my injuries. Our team doctors and trainers did an amazing job giving me an opportunity to get back on the field. This post is strictly to show how much love I have for my brothers and #PantherNation. Thank you all for your support and we will #KeepPounding.-TD

Take a look at the photo (if you’re not too squeamish) and you will be amazed that Davis played through the Super Bowl with over 20 stitches. Clearly, Davis is a strong individual. His decision to join the game, despite his injuries, was not taken lightly and was made with the consultation of his treating physicians.

Like Davis, many injured workers are extremely eager to return to work. Whenever possible, and medically acceptable, returning to work is the best option for the injured worker and the employer. However, the decision to return to work after an injury must be carefully evaluated. All too frequently, our firm receives calls from injured workers who prematurely rush back to work only to find out they can’t perform their old job duties. Sadly, their employer, although understanding at first, becomes frustrated with the injured worker’s physical constraints and the injured worker is terminated. Under these circumstances, the injured worker may have an additional cause of action (retaliatory discharge claim) but the end result could have been avoided if they monitored their recovery carefully and focused on healing before returning to work. 

Coach K’s struggle with chronic pain

Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski has struggled with chronic back pain

Today’s post comes from guest author Hayes Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

If you are a fan of college basketball, you probably know the accomplishments of Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has led Duke University’s men’s basketball program for 35 years, including 4 national championships. What you might not know is that Coach K struggled with chronic back pain that culminated in a personal crisis twenty years ago, and a recent news article by Barry Jones for the News & Observer tells the story.

Coach K had back surgery for a ruptured disk in October of 1994 and was so eager to return to work that he didn’t take the necessary time to recover and he returned to work too soon. As his wife, Mickie, recounted, “Getting well was worse for him than being sick because he felt he had deserted his men.” She even had to give him an ultimatum: skip practice and see the doctor or don’t come home. In fact, his struggle got so bad that he decided to resign. Luckily, the athletic director convinced Coach K to take a leave of absence instead. “One of the things we’ve learned is the emotional toll that chronic pain takes. It just completely changes everything,” said Mickie.

Chronic pain can be devastating, physically and emotionally, and if it can take down Mike Krzyzewski and his family, imagine what it can do to the average working person. Employers, physicians and the injured employee should follow his eventual lead: listen to your body and get proper rest; don’t return to work sooner than you should; and don’t try to be superman.

Return To Work is a Program; Return To Function is a Philosophy

Title: “Expression of pain” – Chris JL

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Law Firm.

Today’s post comes from workerscompensation.com, one of the blogs that I follow.  I am taking Bob’s advice and sharing his article with our network.  His concepts are spot-on.

I wish I had thought of the two concepts reflected in the title of this article. Alas, I did not. I did, however, once again take two dynamite ideas, combine them into one cohesive concept, thereby saving the universe while still managing to create an enticing, killer headline in the process.

I swear, sometimes it’s exhausting being me.

I now serve on the Disability Management & Return to Work Committee of the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). We met Tuesday during the associations 99th Annual Convention in San Diego, CA. Committee Chair Peter Federko tasked the group with defining a working strategy that would encourage and promote successful disability management and return to work programs for both the industry and injured workers. This prompted what I can best describe as a passionate discussion among the members, each with their own take and view on where barriers exist, and what segments should be targeted in any RTW effort. 

Federko, who by day is CEO of the Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board, did a masterful job of keeping the conversation focused as we rambled about with our various opinions. Personally I believe that there are many “moving parts” within workers’ compensation that all must be aligned and engaged to effectively deploy any respectable RTW program. It requires a team effort from all players. Unfortunately, our current trend in claims management is taking us towards a dehumanization of the process, and this is not conducive for the development of such initiatives. 

Two members of this group gave what I believe to be stunning insight, and not just because they dovetail nicely with my beliefs (ok, mostly because they dovetail nicely with my beliefs). Joachim (pronounced Yoke-em) Breuer, with the German workers’ comp system and Chair of the ISSA Technical Commission on Accident Insurance, provided tremendous insight when he stated that Return to Work was not a program, but rather a philosophy; a philosophy that needed to be ingrained throughout the workers’ compensation system. He was followed in short order by Ken Eichler, Director of Government & Insurance Services, Guidelines Division, for Reed Group. Eichler, who is also Committee Vice Chair, talked of suspicion and resistance on the side of the injured worker. He suggested that, to allay fears that RTW was merely a cleverly disguised cost control scheme, the committee instead develop criteria for a “Return to Function” program. He correctly pointed out that “function” is at the core of all life necessities, and that if we can focus on improving that for injured workers, return to work would be a natural extension of any successful effort. 

Brilliant observations from both of them. Federko immediately instructed each to take an extra thousand out of petty cash for their input (not really – I made that up. Ever the cost control maven, Federko wouldn’t even open the committee liquor cabinet). Still, this theory was not quite complete. We haven’t quite finished mixing all ingredients for our RTW stew. We still have one more to add.

As you may notice, both suggestions by Eichler and Breuer fit quite nicely with my (as yet unsuccessful) effort to reposition and rebrand the workers’ compensation industry into the Workers’ Recovery industry. We will therefore include that as a third element in the recipe. This concoction produces the following final scrumptious result:

Successful Return to Function must be driven as an overriding philosophy ingrained throughout the Workers’ Recovery system.

There. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. 

The philosophy maintains that we must return as many people as possible to functional capacity for as normal a life as possible. Severely injured workers almost without exception wish to have some normalcy in their life. They have children or grandchildren they hope to hold. They want to dress, walk or go to the bathroom without assistance. They want to be able to do their own shopping, and they literally would like to be able to take a moment, bend over, and smell the roses. An entire system that embraces that knowledge, from employers, TPA’s, brokers, carriers, doctors, regulators and the workers themselves, can improve both outcomes and individual lives. With that return to function we offer a return to normalcy, a return to life, and indeed, a return to work. 

I cannot speak for the committee nor do I even wish to reveal the path we ultimately chose. Suffice it to say we’re on the right track, and have an amazing amount of work ahead of us. But it will be worth it, as it needs to happen. The current trends are not sustainable. Disability rates are on a dramatic rise, being completely dependent on others is becoming socially normalized, and as workers we are getting older by the day. Our knees are wearing out. Our backs are starting to fail. Many of us have no appreciable skills beyond our current jobs. It is a recipe for disaster if we don’t act, and act quickly.

Restoring life and viability by returning to function via the process of workers’ recovery must be the wave of the future. The choice is simple. Embrace the philosophy today or pay for the reality tomorrow. 

What choice will we make?

Photo credit: Chris JL / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Do I have to be on Social Security Disability Forever?

You aren’t prohibited from returning to work after being on Social Security Disability

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker, from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

Many of the people that I’ve spoken to over the years are under the impression that once you get Social Security Disability (SSD) you have to remain on benefits forever and can never go back to work. This is a common misconception, and one that prevents many people from receiving benefits they would otherwise be entitled to.

While you do not have to be on SSD forever, you do have to be out of work for at least twelve (12) consecutive months. However, once you’ve satisfied this durational requirement, you can return to work and receive SSD for a portion of the time that you were unable to work – Social Security doesn’t pay disability benefits for the first five (5) full months you’re out of work.

We have many clients who receive excellent medical care and have their medical condition improve and return to work. That’s great, and it’s something we love to see. SSD is there for you during the time that you’re unable to work.

…the Social Security Administration…even lets you work for a limited period of time before stopping your benefits.

Social Security also likes it when you return to work, and they have several different programs that help you get back to work, even if it’s a different sort of work than what you were doing before you became disabled. I’ll cover these programs in more detail in a later post, but for now, you should know that the Social Security Administration makes it possible for you to get vocational rehabilitation and retraining for free, and even lets you work for a limited period of time before stopping your benefits.

Once you know that you’ll be out of work for at least 12 months, contact our office to discuss filing a claim, even if you plan to return to work in the future. Because of the fact that you can lose benefits if you wait too long to apply (something I discussed here) you shouldn’t delay filing for benefits just because you plan to go back to work in the future.

How Does Social Security Help Me Get Back to Work?

The SSA has programs to help disabled people rejoin the workforce.

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

As I discussed in a previous post, you don’t have to be on Social Security Disability (SSD) forever. Many people find that their medical conditions improve and they want to try to get back to work. However, it’s hard to get back into the workforce after being out of it for a long time, and people are worried about losing their eligibility for benefits if they try to go back to work but are unsuccessful.

Social Security recognizes that it can be difficult for people to get back into the labor market and that people would be reluctant to go back to work if they would automatically lose entitlement to their disability benefits. To address these concerns, Social Security runs several programs to help people transition back into the workforce while maintaining financial eligibility.

Social Security has many programs and policies to help people return to work, but I will discuss two of these programs in some detail. These are the Ticket to Work program and the Trial Work Period.

The Ticket to Work program gives disabled individuals access to a network of services that offer retraining and vocational rehabilitation. This is a free, completely voluntary program. Once you reach out to them, you will Continue reading