Are your clients employees going out on long-term disability claims and staying out?

A psychologist might be able to help the clients LTD insurer figure out why an employee is staying off the job longer than the employees physical or psychological conditions seem to warrant.

Objective psychological evaluations can improve the efficiency of the disability benefit system.

Letting an employee collect LTD benefits for longer than necessary does the employee no favors. Helping an employee return to some kind of paid work can lead to potential improvements in the employees quality of life.

Heres a hypothetical example that involves Mr. Doe, a fictional disability beneficiary who had a stressful life, then took what proved to be a stressful job.

Mr. Doe started a small, home-based business while collecting disability benefits, and now he is glad to be away from the pressures of his old 50-hour work week.

A clinical psychologist has conducted a comprehensive psychological assessment and determined that, although Mr. Doe still suffers from the residual effects of his past traumas, his condition has improved somewhat over time. The evaluation recommends that Mr. Doe engage in cognitive behavior therapy to overcome his anxiety, depression and fear of returning to the workplace. The evaluation also advises Mr. Doe to seek medical management of his prescribed psychiatric medications, to work outside the home on a part-time basis, and to try to return to 50% of his old work capacity.

Mr. Doe is afraid of returning to work, even on a half-time basis, but he agrees to work part-time in a less stressful position, to participate in psychotherapy, and to permit a physician to manage his use of psychiatric medications. With the proper mental health care, Mr. Doe should be able to re-enter the workplace.

If employees who suffer from psychologically disabling conditions fail to get complete and thorough psychological evaluations, they may opt to stay at home and fall into damaging routines.

What many of these employees really need is a rehabilitation program that challenges them to return to the work and other activities that filled their days before the onset of their conditions. They also may need help with getting the original employers human resources department to provide as physical and psychological assistance with the return to work.

Third-party clinical evaluations need not lead to “all or nothing” results. Evaluations could support the need to continue full disability benefits or discontinue them altogether. But they also could support the need for returning to part-time work or work conducted at a graduated pace.

Penny M. Goffman, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist based in Houston who conducts psychological evaluations for insurance companies and individual patients, as well as therapy.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, October 14, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.