The Spouse Might Be the Most Important Partner in NY Workers Comp
Republished with permission from ReduceYourWorkersComp.com
“Return to Work” (RTW) will achieve unprecedented attention in the coming year, largely due to a series of recent decisions and an upcoming argument in the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals. The issue will be defining better the standards for “voluntary withdrawal” from the labor force. Such withdrawals can result in halting of future payments.
If an employer makes a job offer a return to work is far more likely to result in success than if a worker tries to find a job. To help employers implement a RTW program, the Board has on its website an outline of an RTW program. One of the sections deals with “partners” in the return to work process. Nine people and entities are listed, but the most important is not present on the list. Who might that be? The SPOUSE!
In order to appreciate the role and importance of the spouse in managing disability it helps to have been as close to the problem as possible, but with professional expertise. That means being the treating doctor or the lawyer representing the worker. Only in that way are you likely to witness first hand the role that is played by the spouse.
People who have become cynical and jaded by the administrative handling of comp claims would be surprised to learn that the spouse is the person least likely to favor extended disability, no matter what the final settlement figure might be. The spouse, above all others, knows, and lives with, the consequences of extended absence from work. Even the children, who share the consequences, can only guess at the downside nature of disability though they quickly learn what it is like to have an additional parent commenting on their every move.
Why would the Board outline omit all references to a spouse? Perhaps because the very nature of the relationship is private and beyond the Board's comment or control. But that is no reason for others to fail to involve that most important person.
In any enlightened RTW program by the employer a face to face discussion with the employee should be had as quickly as possible. The spouse should be present and participating in the discussion with, of course, the permission of the worker.
There is a good chance that the employer already knows the spouse, which makes the efforts far more effective. Leaving the efforts to a carrier or administrative board makes for a poor communication network which usually omits family members from the process. But the employer has an excellent functioning, and supportive, network when the family is directly involved.
A RTW discussion should not focus on the claim. The effort is part of the employer/employee relationship and such discussions can, and often are, had even in the absence of any kind of claim. Having such discussions when no claim has been filed will often result in lowering claims in the future. (Many disability claims – comp, LTD, Social Security disability – are triggered by uncertainty about future earnings or medical payments. A sooner, rather than later, meeting with the employer will greatly reduce that uncertainty.)
In short, the employer participates not as a surrogate for the carrier but as the other major player in the family's security. (WCxKit)
The first rule of disaster management and control is to maximize the immediate use of all available tools. Do not wait for a third-party to appear with another tool, which is seldom as effective as those already in place and not nearly as timely.
Author: Attorney Theodore Ronca is a practicing lawyer from Aquebogue, NY. He is a frequent writer and speaker, and has represented employers in the areas of workers' compensation, Social Security disability, employee disability plans and subrogation for over 30 years. Attorney Ronca can be reached at 631-722-2100. email@example.com
Disclaimer: WorkersCompensation.com publishes independently generated writings from a variety of workers' compensation industry stakeholders. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of WorkersCompensation.com.