A recent discussion on LinkedIn proved to be a rather enlightening event for me. The discussion, now closed to further comments after it decayed into the intellectual equivalent of Pee Wee Herman's repeated rebuke of “I know you are, but what am I?”, was centered on the current state of workers' compensation, particularly in comparison to how far it has strayed from its original intents and purposes of 100 years ago.

This was an extraordinarily long and windy discussion, with everybody and their incompetent brother-in-law weighing in on the argument. Please allow me to save you time, energy and sanity by recapping, or “cliff-noting” if you will, the results of this wild and wooly conversation.

  • Insurance companies are crooked and evil
  • Employers are stupid and evil
  • Defense attorneys control the system and are just plain evil
  • Injured workers are faking malingerers
  • Injured workers are helpless victims
  • Adjustors are idiots
  • Bill reviewers are morons
  • Doctors are surrounded by idiots and morons
  • Nurses are no Doctors, and should know their place (somewhere below Doctors but above idiot adjustors)
  • Injured Worker Attorneys are Godless Disability Creators
  • Injured Worker Attorneys are the last great hope against a corrupt and evil machine which is led by Defense Attorneys and staffed with corrupt idiots and morons
  • I am none of the categories listed above, but I am an idiot and moron nonetheless

There. Simple, right?

There was a person in this group who I will only identify as Richard, who I believe is clearly a passionate and committed soul to his chosen profession. I have no doubt that he genuinely cares about the people with whom he works. He seemed to take issue with a comment I made in the thread that pointed out that much of the debate is over a relatively small percentage of claims. I correctly indicated that many of the over 14,000 claims filed every day in this country simply receive treatment, get better, and return to work. End of story. Easy peasey. It is those serious, catastrophic, life altering claims (or in some cases people who believe they have a serious, catastrophic, life altering claim) where the greatest challenges and conflicts lie. Richard's contention seemed to be that I am being inconsistent (I say “seemed to be” because I am apparently too stupid to understand his words or intent, so am freely surmising here). By saying the system works for many, while also discussing potential reforms for that system, I am apparently some sort of hypocrite.

I respectfully disagree. I think there is ample room for both views. Just because a system is working for many does not mean it cannot be improved. In fact, it needs to be improved. Richard was correct, as I have championed a new way to manage claims for the industry. Still, relations continued to sour, until his last post before the thread was closed down. That is where he (condescendingly, in my view) referred to me as “Bobby”. Really? Is this where we want to go? I would think that a man named Richard would not want to revert to nicknames, because surely he would be on the losing end of that battle. There has to be a more mature way to discuss our differences.

In all seriousness, what this discussion revealed was how polarized and antagonistic the industry is, and how we, as a community, will struggle to find solutions agreeable to all if we cannot even agree on the importance of everyone's roles in the system; as well as why the system exists in the first place. It is a basic question, really. How do we get better at helping injured workers' get better? It turns out asking the question is much easier than providing the answer.

There were some bright spots in this discussion. There were some truly brilliant comments made amongst the rabble and commotion. There was a woman named Rosemary – a woman with whom I have publicly disagreed in the past – who shone through as likely the one person with both a truly genuine as well as non-financial interest in the debate. She is an injured worker advocate, and runs a Center, excuse me, she is in Australia, so she runs a “Centre”, to help injured workers rediscover their worth and purpose in this world.

Rosemary was not the only one to touch on that theme. There were others as well, and in their comments lies the map to our path out of the wilderness. For people suffering life altering changes from their injuries, workers' comp needs to be less about process and more about recovery; and by recovery I do not just mean a return to work (which is essential). I am talking about a return to life. I am talking about a recovery of self value, of purpose, of worth to a family and community. In Rosemary's world that effort is coming from a Centre she established, and that is great. I applaud her for her efforts. But this message should be ingrained into the process itself, into a new claims management process, what I call Recovery Management.

You see, in our argument and debate over process and procedure, we are forgetting about the patient. We are losing focus on the end game. We are creating system dependents.  No one, not even attorneys representing injured workers, is focused on restoring self worth in today's injured worker. It is a critical part of the solution we seek.

Anyone should be able to understand that – whether you are a Tommy, Dick, Harry or Bobby.

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