Michigan lawmakers need to do more to protect disabled employees who are suffering from work-related mental illness.
Former police officer Jeff Neville spoke with NBC25 about his experience with workers’ compensation. He was stabbed in the neck by a terrorist at Flint’s Bishop International Airport in 2017. Neville attempted to return to work as a police officer but was experiencing symptoms of high blood pressure and panic attacks. His claim for additional workers’ compensation benefits was denied based upon an insurance company doctor opinion.
State Rep. Mike Mueller (R-51st District) was also interviewed about the situation. He admits the system is flawed and that mental illness often gets pushed aside. He wants to better protect first responders who develop mental illness caused by events at work. Mueller acknowledges insurance companies often choose which doctors to clear employees. He believes only doctors trained in how to work with police officers should be making those decisions.
Our 2 Cents
Michigan workers’ compensation law is supposed to cover medical care and lost wages for employees suffering from work-related mental illness. This includes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Medical treatment is unlimited and there are no co-pays or deductibles owed. Lost wages are paid at 80% of the after-tax average weekly wage and continue for as long as an employee cannot work.
Mental illness is not something people like to discuss and there is a stigma attached to any such diagnosis. Unfortunately, there is no magic test showing what an employee thinks or feels. Asking for help can be one of the hardest things to do. We have seen this firsthand with our clients who suffer in silence. Nobody should feel embarrassed or worry about losing their job because they made a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
Insurance companies use biased medical opinions to dispute payment of mental illness claims. Doctors are handpicked for so called “independent” medical examination and make careers out of testifying against disabled employees. Many of these doctors are not even qualified to properly evaluate these claims.
Michigan lawmakers need to do more than just help first responders. All employees deserve the same level of respect and protection. We have represented factory workers who suffer amputations of limbs but are still expected to report to the company plant. Cashiers are victims of violent crime but are quickly returned to their old jobs at the same location. Failure to show up for work means they forfeit wages. The burden is on the disabled employee to file a workers’ compensation case and prove that he or she is suffering from mental illness.
We think a solution could be to limit doctors who perform independent medical examination (IME). Only doctors who actively treat patients with mental illnesses should be permitted to give medical opinions.
Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (844) 201-9497 for a free consultation today.