I have an acquaintence -- let's call him "T" -- who had been receiving diability payments from his "job" for over a year because he found a psychiatrist to write him a note claiming he had a psychological malady called "stress" that prevented him from working. I don't know the exact nature of T's "stress", but seeing as how it stemmed from managing a retail clothing store I find it hard to believe that it kept him from doing any sort of work for over a year. Nevertheless, due to California's absurd workers' compensation system, his employer had no choice but to continue paying T while he sat at home drinking and playing video games.

This type of forced coverage of nonsensical claims is part of what makes California so unattractive to employers, and refomring the workers' compensation system was one of Governor Arnold's top campaign priorities. Republican state Senator Ross Johnson is introducing a bill to implement some changes, and is particularly targeting intangible psychological claims.

Claiming a psychological injury is already the most-difficult kind of disability to prove. But Johnson says because the pain is literally all in the workers' mind, they should have to offer better proof that their employer caused it.

Psychiatrists don't like the sound of that. They say it smacks of discrimination against their field.

Uh, yeah. I'm not a psychologist, but I play one on TV and I've taken a good number of graduate-level psychology classes. The field is 50% BS and 50% "we don't know what it means, but when we do A we get B". Heck, maybe that makes it 100% BS. Anyway, the point is that I have no problem discriminating against a field that has just about as much legitimacy in my mind as palmistry. I'm exaggerating, but you get my point.
His bill would also restrict the reasons for which a worker might claim a stress disability. Pressures that are common to all fields of employment, for example, would not be allowed as cause for a psychological injury. A worker also could not be compensated for a psychological illness that arose from the stress of disciplinary action, job transfer or being fired.

"It is equally sensible to ensure that the everyday stresses we all experience in the workplace do not give rise to a claim for benefits," Johnson said.

Well, duh. It's an unfortunate sign of the decadence of our culture that this even has to be said and coded into law.

Strangely, the California Psychiatric Association doesn't approve of the bill, which would drastically reduce their prestige and clientele.

"We felt that it would create an incentive for an intrusive investigation of patients that would increase costs without benefiting the worker," Hagar [the director of government affairs for the California Psychiatric Association] said. "Psychiatric injury already has a higher burden of proof. And the bill seems predicated on the assumption that there is some sort of evidence of over-utilization of psychiatry, which is absolutely untrue.

"And, it is discriminatory against the field and against the patients who have legitimate injuries."

The problem is that workers are being unfairly benefitted at the moment; this bill tries to level the playing field, and reduce the cost to businesses of absurd claims. Hopefully, those with "legitimate injuries" will still be able to get treatment. However, people like T who get stressed out from folding clothes and adding up numbers should be prevented from leeching off the system.



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