Delayed Treatments, Loss, and Depression
Jeffrey Johnson, an industrial maintenance engineer from Olivehurst, CA, herniated a disk in his back while reaching over a conveyor belt at work. Almost a year had passed without any relief, because the insurance company wouldn’t give an answer one way or another as to whether he could have the physician-prescribed surgery.
He did receive a settlement that included lifetime medical coverage, but the insurer wouldn’t (and still won’t) approve any treatments without the threat of legal action. Often, when it comes to filling or denying prescriptions, the insurer won’t send a response to that either. (They are by law required to send a letter to the patient and his or her lawyer.) Mr. Johnson holds that if he doesn’t take them to court – which is, of course, an arduous and time-consuming process – nothing will be gained.
Mr. Johnson experienced many varied roadblocks to his recovery, with frustration at every turn and physical pain throughout the entire process. As an important side note: his lawyer doesn’t receive additional compensation at this point for any effort he makes on his client’s behalf, because the injured worker has already received his settlement. So indeed, the system is not working for an increasing number of patients who share Mr. Johnson’s predicament.
And, like many in his situation, he’s lost a house and two cars. He sold one car to pay rent. He has wrestled with depression. Mr. Johnson and his wife have six children, and his wife is now going to school and working full time to keep the family solvent.
They’ve lost so much – in terms of a father no longer being able to go fishing or play basketball with his sons – and to compound that, making a quarter of his previous salary has been a big adjustment for the entire family. He summed it up rather stoically: “It’s been a journey.”
Another wounded worker (who asked that his name not be used) accumulated several injuries over a 35-year career as an ironworker; his injuries include a torn rotator cuff, five herniated discs in his neck, bone spurs in his thoracic spine, and a tear in his hip. He suffers migraines from the deteriorated discs that have gone untreated. Half his arm was regularly going numb from a pinched nerve. (A simple surgery could eliminate the numbing, but it is continually denied.) He’d steeled his nerves for the pain involved with recovering from surgery, but he was not prepared for the abject denial of treatment from his workers’ compensation insurer. The experience spun him into a “deep, deep, deep depression” (and there was a long and painful pause after he found the strength to express this). Finally a psychiatrist gave him the tools to find that spark again, to live, and to do something with each day, despite his struggles.
If you’ve taken a similarly trying journey, please share your story on this site, and help us pave a smoother road for those who may stumble down the line. Thank you. Paula@WoundedWorker.org