The Disability Management and Return to Work Committee met yesterday at the IAIABC 100th Annual Conference in Austin, TX. As regular readers will know, this committee has been working to develop a policy paper on Return to Work to better foster a consistent RTW process across all jurisdictions. I must say we are moving at lightning speed. 

I reported last Spring that the committee was blazing through this task, having settled on a paper title after just 3 hours of raucous battle in a meeting in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. While things are clipping along at an alarmingly fast pace, I do expect a few more hurdles, such as the year 2015, when we will select what font should be used for this paper. Personally I lean to Verdana or Tahoma 11pt, but I suspect our German friends will be backing Garamond, a crisper, more sharp edged font that, while practical, leaves much less to the imagination. 

And the whole “Return to Work” versus “Return to Function” issue lingers in the background. I remain firmly ensconced in the RTF camp, but for purposes of this article use both interchangeably. The previously mentioned agreed upon paper title includes both, just not in the right order.

If you cannot tell, I probably do not have the patience required for committee work. I am more of an “on the fly collaboration” kind of guy, where I can gather with a group of associates, quickly debate and weigh the issues, listen to the options, assess others opinions, and then do whatever I damn well please. It is my way of proudly reaching a bonehead decision much faster than larger organizations that must employ vast bureaucracies to accomplish the same. Committee work, on the other hand, is a bit slower by comparison. It involves patience, diplomacy, collaborative skills, and the ability to remain sedentary for hours on end. I only possess one of those skills. I’ll bet you can guess which one it is. Committee work, it turns out, is not as easy as it may seem.

The IAIABC DM & RTW committee is comprised of passionate and caring people. The conversation yesterday, which focused both on RTW challenges and the proposed structure of the paper, was energetic and had many active participants. While this can be annoying to those of us who prefer to dominate the conversation and just get everyone to go along with whatever damn well pleases us, it does serve to better identify real issues and concerns in the process. The collaborative effort did produce a needed direction for the task at hand, 

Ultimately we were able to identify the very few barriers that exist to successful RTW/RTF, and subsequently were able to better define the structure on which this paper will be crafted. These are the potential barriers that the paper will need to address:   

  • Employers
  • Employees
  • Unions
  • Regulators
  • Doctors
  • Lawyers
  • Family
  • Society
  • Vendors

There you have it. That is all that is standing between us and a smoothly implemented Return to Work strategy for the nation as a whole. And our committee is poised to address these areas. 

Almost everyone in the room, while having varying opinions and priorities, agreed on one common theme. We have a disability problem in this nation, and the status quo is no longer acceptable. We have to change our culture, and that is what our discussions truly highlighted. We can no longer sit idly by and watch people placed on a fast track to disability dependence. 

It will not be an easy task. All of the factors listed above must be addressed, as they will all play a role in forming a successful Return to Function effort. But we are on it, and once the font issue has been settled and we have tackled the weight and color of the paper to be used, we hope to have a comprehensive guide to address the challenges of successful Return to Function. And that is easy peasy, committee style.

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