Descriptive Study of Contested, Workers’ Compensation Psychiatric Claims
Marissa Brown, Stephen Dotta, Justin Wilson, Cassandra Johnson, and Kristin Turner
The Worker’s Compensation system has historically provided medical and wage benefits to workers who were injured on the job and disabled. Psychiatric injuries became compensable in the 1970’s, but were soon controversial because of their growing number and costs (Spevak, 2006). This study followed the work of Repko & Cooper (1983) and profiled a sample (n=100) of injured workers whose psychiatric claims were legally contested. Results showed that the current Sample averaged approximately 47 years of age, 11 years of education and 25+ years of doing mostly physical tasks in the work force. Sixty five percent of them were diagnosed with somatizing disorders (i.e. converting psychological distress into physical pain or disability), that resulted in mild to moderate, residual disability. Psychological testing data from the MMPI-2 corroborated the clinical impressions of the examining doctors of these Subjects as diagnosable with genuine psychiatric conditions. Comparisons with known clinical groups showed our Sample’s scores on Validity scales from the MMPI-2 resembled those of Litigating (chronic-pain) Patients but were dissimilar from those of Non-Litigating (chronic-pain) Patients (i.e. higher) and known Malingerers (i.e. lower). These findings argue for the prominence of Secondary Gain (unconscious regression) as a dynamic phenomenon among this group of patients, who are unlikely to be malingering their complaints. Suggestions for future research are given.