Imprecision in the Evaluation of Workers’ Compensation Psychological Injury Claims
Pamela A. Warren
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Abstract

Psychological conditions with severe symptoms can result in considerable impairment in functioning, and psychological disability claims, also called behavioral health disability, have increased during the past two decades. A review of states’ workers’ compensation (WC) systems shows no overlap between systems; that is, all states and federal WC systems have unique terminology, rules, and laws. In order to thoroughly evaluate the individual, evaluators must use a biopsychosocial approach that combines aspects of biological, psychological, and psychosocial issues. Studies consistently demonstrate a high degree of comorbidity between physical and psychological conditions, but frequently only the former are identified and treated. Current disability systems use byzantine definitions of disability and require professional opinions and documentation that do not comport with current psychological standards of care, introducing imprecision. Many issues relating to WC terminology and laws can be addressed if the Daubert standard is incorporated into any amendment of WC state and federal laws. The Daubert standard requires that currently accepted scientific methods be used when a professional offers testimony as an expert or is submitting professional treatment records (eg, in a WC determination). Compliance with the Daubert standard requires more consistent, objective professional documentation and testimony to ensure even-handed decisions that align with standards of psychological care. One observer has suggested that the Daubert standard is a mechanism by which junk science is kept out of legal proceedings.

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