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Have you had an increase in stress-related workers' compensation or disability claims over the past year?

The Short Answer

Provide stress management training and opportunities for stress reduction and relief. Consider making stress-reduction training an integral part of coverage for this condition under your Worker’s Compensation plan.

The Long Answer

This is an area that has left many employers not knowing quite what to do. Any behavioral health concern such as stress-related workers compensation or disability is inherently ambiguous. Employers can’t be assured that an x-ray demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that an injury has occurred nor can they be assured that the workplace and its conditions are to be blamed.

The fact is, stress is costing the American business community billions of dollars per year in lost work days, lower productivity, healthcare costs and compensation. Case in point, an average stress claim costs $15,000.00 – twice the average for physical injury.

What's worse, mental health and substance abuse are cited as the secondary diagnosis on as many as 50% of physical disability claims.

Employers are encouraged to weave mental health professionals into the evaluation and treatment of stress-related disabilities, injuries and claims. The common approach today is to have an Occupational Medicine practitioner, at best, evaluate and prescribe treatment in these cases. Consider having these claims and cases evaluated by a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist. Not only can they assess and diagnose more appropriately (most family practice physicians and internists have little to no training in behavioral health), they can devise treatment plans that are appropriate to the actual need.

As it stands today, stress and behavioral reasons for filing a workers compensation claim or disability are treated to upwards of 12 weeks away from work while taking a prescribed anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. Including qualified mental health providers, such as those found in an EAP program, will limit time away from work and assure treatment planning that will address behavioral change and teaching coping skills.

© Copyright 2002 BPA Press, Inc.