Article 43


Sunday, September 04, 2011

Burned To The Crisp From Work

Stressed out worker

A workplace where there is total focus on the bottom-line and its leadership has forgotten that though the bottom line is important, far more important is our humanity, our human-ness, our spirit as individuals and as a collective.  It is a workplace that has not learned to balance the need for profits with concern about the heart and soul of its people.
Toxic Workplace


Ever have the BOSS pile tons of extra work on you, then YELL AT YOU for not getting it done?

Is your job so demanding that you grow more tired, stressed, depressed and EXHAUSTED from it every day?

Do you put in so many hours, or TRAVEL SO MUCH for work that you’re rarely home and SKIRTING YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES to yourself, your family, and things outside the job that are important to you? 

Did you TALK to your superiors about it, and AS A RESULT more work, more travel, more STRESS, and the “Be happy you got a job” line was what you got for it? 

Or did the BOSS really SCREW WITH YOUR HEAD and say something like “I have three resumes for people applying for your job?”

Is the BOSS a BULLY?



When Should You Leave Work On Disability

By Jacques Chambers, CLU, Benefits Consultant
HCV Advocate
March 2003

That’s easy. You go on disability when you can’t work. Unfortunately, the answers not really that simple. Oh, it’s easy when something immediate and major happens. The old, “hit by a bus” routine, for example. If you break both legs and your job involves walking, the answers easy, it’s time to file for disability. If youre a surgeon (or basketball star) and you break a finger, the answer’s also easy, you’re disabled.

But what if its not that simple? What if it’s the symptoms of hepatitis C, which come and go, or slowly become more troublesome? What if its the treatment that is disabling you? How do you recognize that day when it comes, when you can no longer work even though you could work the day before? This article will help you answer that question.

Remember the camel? Gradually loading it with more and more weight made it capable of carrying far more than it could have, had a heavy weight been dropped on it all at once. It is possible that you are doing the same thing when you try to keep working even though it becomes harder and harder. Sooner or later, you will add that final straw.

Also, what if your symptoms are primarily subjective, such as pain and fatigue, as it often is with HCV? What if your medication causes mood swings that make it difficult to deal with others, make working under pressure virtually impossible? When is it time to stop working?

Timing is important. When leaving work, timing is an important factor. You really shouldn’t leave when your symptoms are too minor to qualify for benefits. Conversely, you really dont want to wait until you have no quality of life remaining. Also, the process of transitioning from work to disability involves more than a little paperwork and planning, so you don’t want to wait until you are unable to function at all to leave work.

My doctor will tell me when it’s time to stop working. Are you sure? In my years counseling people going out on disability I have encountered doctors who will support disability “whenever you want to stop work.” But I have also encountered many physicians who strongly resist ever putting a patient on disability, probably out of concern that it will hasten his or her decline.

And does your doctor always know when the time is right? Has your doctor seen the definition of disability in your LTD policy so he or she will recognize when the time is right for your policy to pay benefits? Does your doctor understand how Social Security determines disability? As good as doctors are at treating medical conditions, they’re rarely current on the details involved in the process of leaving work on disability. Yet, that is the person most people turn to.

Dont get me wrong; your doctor is a vital part of this decision. If your doctor won’t support your decision that you are unable to work, then you will have trouble obtaining any disability benefits. Or, more accurately, you will not get any disability benefits at all without your doctors support.

Ill know when it’s time to leave.” That sounds very comforting, but it isn’t that simple either. When you are dealing with a life event as major as stopping work and becoming disabled, there is frequently an emotional backlash that makes it very difficult to think and reason objectively.  It’s not easy to recognize the right decision when your ability to think rationally is impaired.

Despite that, you are still the best expert in determining the right time for you to leave work. You know how you feel; you know what your work involves and what it costs you physically and emotionally to continue working. If you can filter out the static and focus on the issues, then you’ll know when its time to leave.

“How Do I Focus On The Issues?” Organize your thoughts, put them on paper. Make a list of things you need to consider in making this decision (see below). Look over the list for a day or two and add other items as they occur to you.

Then review each item. Does it support continuing to work or support leaving on disability?

What should go on your list? That is for you to decide, but here are some of the items that would appear on most lists:

Your doctor’s opinion AND your medical record As I said, your doctor will be a key element in obtaining disability benefits, but so will your medical record. Remember, insurance companies and Social Security rarely look at you, the person. They judge your ability to work from your medical records. How complete are they? Do they list all symptoms every time? Are they legible? Have the appropriate lab tests and diagnostic studies been documented in the file?

At your next appointment with your doctor, ask him or her about disability, and, after the appointment, ask to take your record to an empty office and review it page by page. Look for comments about your limitations from both work and daily activities. Are frequency and severity of symptoms included? Play detective; how disabled would you believe you are just from the record in front of you?

How will you survive if you leave work disabled?

What benefits are available to you? How much income will you have from Social Security and from Long Term Disability insurance? Can you live on that and pay your bills, or what changes in your lifestyle will have to be made? How will you maintain your health insurance and how much will it cost? Its time to dig out those benefits books from work and start looking for answers to those questions. It’s also a good time to visit Social Securitys .</i>



Is Depression a Legitimate Disability?

By Nancy Schimelpfening
About dot com Depression Guide
January 27, 2009

I just read an OP-ED PIECE written by a doctor in which he discusses why he feels it would be better for people with depression to be forced to work rather than allowed to go on disability. The crux of his argument seemed to be that when he was a junior doctor he lived next door to some young men who were on disability for depression yet they were able to get out in the yard and play football. The more I read of his article, it became clear to me that he was, in fact, jealous because he was working hard learning to be a doctor so he could treat these people who seemed to be living the easy life, drawing a check from the government, even though they were not really debilitated enough, in his opinion, to be disabled.

Reading this article, it occurred to me that depression doesn’t get the respect that it should because it is an invisible illness. There is nothing obviously wrong with people who are depressed. They plaster on a fake smile, make an appearance at work every day and everything appears to be normal. But, does the fact that depressed people are physically capable of getting themselves to work mean they aren’t too disabled to work? I think only someone who has experienced depression knows the real answer to that question.

I am one of the lucky ones who was able to recover from depression with treatment. But, what if I had been treatment-resistant, going from one medication to another with no relief, the way so many people do? I can remember dragging myself to work most days, pulling myself out of bed at the last possible second because my sleep had been so poor. I would be there in body, but not really up to the task emotionally, psychologically or even physically. I made numerous mistakes, my productivity was low and all-around I was just not a good employee when I was depressed. Whenever I possibly could, I used sick days and vacation time to relieve the unbearable stress. I can well imagine what it is like for the chronically depressed person who is not able to find relief through any means. How can you do a competent job at work when you can barely find the energy to pull yourself out of bed? If you are struggling to hold a job because of your depression and there is no end in sight for your symptoms, why shouldn’t you be considered disabled?



Can You File a Disability Claim for Stress or Anxiety?

If youve ever had a job you hate, supervisors or coworkers that love making your life hell, or if you’ve ever spent Saturday AND Sunday thinking about how bad you didnt want to go back to work on Monday because of stress and anxiety, then you’ll want to read this entire article.

Before I go on I just want to tell you why Im even writing about this. I had reader contact me recently about this issue and she had some concerns about losing work due to severe anxiety.

Over her short working career she’s lost as many as 15 jobs, has been denied disability benefits multiple times and feels like there isn’t anyone advocating for the little guy.

Then it dawned on me that if she has this problem, then it has to be that there are others with the same problem.

I mean, it’s not like I’ve never sat in my cubicle Monday morning watching Microsoft windows load and had a quick day dream about walking out of the office never to be seen again, at least not by those guys anyway.

So, I’m going to tell you what your options are for filing disability because of stress and or anxiety, what to expect, pros and cons, and some other morsels of information.

To kick this off I think we should start by talking a little bit about what qualifies you for disability. And although there are many different kinds of disability coverage, I will cover only a few in this article, since the basics are the same across the board.

Now, since I live in California, Ill be using my home state as a template, so let me quote part of the California Unemployment Insurance Code that defines what a disability is. Section 2626 of the California UI code says, in a nutshell, that “Disability is defined as ANY mental or physical illness or injury which prevents you from performing your regular or customary work.”

Moreover, the US National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety defines job stress as, the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. So under these two definitions stress and anxiety are acknowledged as work related issues, and as such they count as illnesses that could qualify someone for disability benefits.

How much they count as a basis for not working is a more complex issue. You have to take into account what state you live in, your work history, medical history, and so on. In other words, just because you think your job is making your anxiety worse, don’t think for a second that youll be watching Jerry Springer anytime soon.

The reality is that in most cases it is hard to get disability benefits because of stress or anxiety. The powers that be have no problem with you breaking some bones and calling out for awhile, but when you try to pull the whole, “Im too anxious to work thing,” youll find more closed doors than welcome mats for sure.

Actually, let me explore this idea with you for a second. I think the reason it’s so hard to get disability for stress, anxiety, depression or any other psych disorder, boils down to two things, and those are the potential for abuse and the puritan work ethic that underpins our entire culture.

With respect to the former, I think that stress and anxiety are conveniently seen as just part of life, so in most cases they want you to just get over it. And they want it this way not always on moral grounds, but also for practical reasons. Lets be honest, a lot of people cheat the system.

The more unscrupulous among us go to a doctor, open up the tear faucet, and get put on disability, many times at taxpayer expense. So, to some degree, they drop the hammer on people looking to get off work due to stress and anxiety because of the semi-subjective nature of emotions like anxiety, the degree to which it can truly immobilize you, and the difficulty of gauging all that. The bottom-line is that it’s just kinda of hard to tell if someone is faking it, so the hurdles put up to stop you can get tall and numerous. Although I concede that there are people that fake back injuries too, but I digress.

The other thing is that our whole system in America is based on the Puritan work ethic. This ethic is the one that values hard work to an almost lunatic degree. Its the belief that work is more than work, it is in fact, your moral duty.

This is why America is obsessed with work to the point that when strangers meet they’ll almost always ask, so what do you do? As in, what is your contribution? Dare I say, what is your worth?

This is also why we work, work, and work in America. Its in the blood. With a culture obsessed with work, imagine for a second what happens when you stop working, or in this case try to stop working? The music stops and you’re left without a chair for sure.

Ultimately, its hard to get disability because of the potential for cheaters to cheat and because it’s generally frowned upon in our culture to not work. The mission isnt impossible though, so let’s take a look at your options.

Qualifying for benefits

In order to qualify for any type of disability benefits youll have to do more than have difficulty doing your job because of stress or anxiety. Here are a few of the basics.

You must be unable to do your regular work for a certain amount of consecutive days. In California it is 8 straight days.

You must provide written proof by a medical doctor (which includes psychiatrists), or other health care professional like a psychologist, for example, that you are not fit to work.

Allow access to your medical records.

Must be undergoing treatment for anxiety, stress, depression or whatever you’re claiming. This includes things like taking medication and undergoing therapy.

There may be wage and employment requirements.

You have to submit a disability claim application. This stuff isnt automatic!

You’ll have to be open to a medical evaluation by the entity youre trying to get benefits from.

You may be subject to an investigation, which may involve the interviewing of family, friends, and co-workers.

Types of Coverage

Not all disability coverage’s are created equal. This is because the type of coverage you have will dictate how much time off you get, how much money you are paid and other particulars of that nature.

State plans - The majority of workers fall under this plan in California. This coverage is paid by deductions from your paycheck. Not sure if you pay into this? Take a look at your pay stub. In California it would say CASDI, which stands for California State Disability Insurance. Obviously this will vary from state to state, but most working Americans are eligible for this type of coverage.

Voluntary plans - This is a private plan that employers and employee groups can use with approval through your state’s disability office. You can inquire about this coverage through your employer.

Elective coverage - Employers and self-employed people can elect coverage by directly contacting their state disability office.

Short term disability - In this case your employers or your own policy will dictate your coverage. This coverage, like all others, pays a portion of your salary if you become disabled. You can get it through private insurance companies like Metlife or Aflac by way of your employer. See your human resources department at work for more information. You can also get it through the social security office as well.

FMLA - The Family & Medical Leave Act allows eligible workers to take off up to 12 weeks in any one 12 month period for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a family member, or because of a health issue. This coverage doesn’t all have to be used all at once either, it can be broken up over time and can even be used to allow for part time work on a temporary basis.

Workers Comp - This is insurance that your employer pays for in the event that you are injured on the job. Workers comp will pay for medical bills, disability payments and retraining benefits. In most cases it will be difficult to obtain workers comp benefits for stress or anxiety. The state of California for example is notorious for investigating these types of claims vigorously and denying them with just as much gusto. They could argue with you about whether or not it is your job that is making you panic and so on. Is the kids? Your spouse? They will dig, believe me. Actually, in the state of Virginia they laugh at stress or anxiety claims. But in Michigan they do pay on such claims, so you’ve go to do your homework.

SSI - Supplemental Security Income disability is a federal program that can be used to pay disability benefits due to stress or anxiety. This program is perhaps one of the most hoop intensive programs. From what I understand, when it comes to workers comp, or SSI, it isn’t unusual for people to acquire the services of an attorney because things can get nasty. In fact, the denial rate for SSI is super high. You may have to try multiple times, and even end up in court to get your benefits.


The appeals process is something you have to be aware of because of the high rate of denial for stress claims.Ӕ In most cases, from the date of denial, youll be given a set amount of days to submit an appeal. This should have your case reopened for reexamination. The bottom-line here is: know your rights!  Just because someone says no the first time means nothing. Maybe you got a grumpy examiner the first time around, it happens. Also remember that if you win your appeal you could be entitled to retroactive payments.


The up side to getting disability payments for stress or anxiety is huge. This will give you the time to regroup and recharge your batteries. It will also give you time to get the help that you need. After all, being on disability is not about watching day time t.v. or shuffling around WalMart when everyone else is at work. It is about making a plan to get better and trying to fulfill that plan to the best of your ability.

Mental stress is a real problem that needs to be addressed. By addressing this problem you can avoid getting sick on a physical level, and avoid all the problems that come with that, like gigantic medical bills. So the break down of perks looks like this if you can make it across all the red tape.

More time to let your mind and body recover from the effects of stress.

More time to seek help and make a plan of action to maintain your long term health.

More time to reevaluate your situation, like your job, unhealthy habits, relationship problems, and lots more.

Working day in and day out can be a grind, a big metallic grinder with shiny blades, in fact. Getting away from such a thing temporarily is not a bad thing.


Here it is, the bad part. You didn’t think that this would be all easy street right? Well, for starters, if you file for disability it is possible that your life will become an open book. So you have to ask yourself if youre ready for that. I mean, if they’re interviewing co-workers about this, it’ll be more than just a cat coming out of a bag… itll be more like a tiger. Office gossip, trash talkers, you name it, they will all come out of the woodwork. You’ll turn into topic numero uno, and possibly be labeled as the office crazy person.

Then there is the stigma put on you by management. After months or even years of loyal service, you could become the object of anger or even neglect. Backlash is a real possibility.

And lastly, although in many instances it is illegal, you could lose your job. I’ve personally encountered several people who went on disability only to come back to work to be told that there is a “lack of work,” and voila, no more j.o.b. Even women that go on maternity leave have to face this sometimes, imagine what they will do to someone who is “just stressed” out. So if you go on disability you can expect:

Office rumors and gossip about you

Managerial backlash


Social stigmatization

This isn’t to discourage you, it is just to give you a realistic picture of what it could be like once you get on disability. You have to know that the going won’t always be easy.


When stress and anxiety jump up and bite you, you don’t always have to fold your tent up and go home. You do have a few options that you can explore to avoid disability altogether.

EAP - This stands for Employee Assistance Program, which are programs designed to help employees with personal problems like drug abuse, emotional distress, major life events, financial troubles and work relationships. This type of program can be linked to your health care plan and may provide counseling services as well. Unfortunately, EAP’s are normally only found at large companies, but if you work at a big company don’t ignore this resource. Talk to someone in your human resources department for more information.

Vacation & Sick Leave - Got some time off coming? Instead of the typical vacation you could try to design a getaway or even a home based self-help program to get back to basics for a few weeks, or if you havent already, you can visit your doctor about starting medication and explore other treatment options, all in private.

The truth is that typical vacations can be stressful, and may not even be necessary, considering that maybe all you need is a few days to collect your thoughts and indulge in some R&R. You could also use some of this time with short notice if your employer allows it. You’d be surprised what taking Thursday, Friday and the weekend off can do to your spirits, good things indeed. I also know that not all of us are lucky enough to have paid time off, but if you have it then use it, and use it wisely.


I believe that mental stress and severe anxiety are debilitating conditions, even if you’re not on the floor convulsing from fear. It is both wrong and unfair that those of us that suffer from anxiety aren’t given more compassion and patience in the workplace. But in our workaholic culture there is little compassion or patience for those that succumb to the pressures of work. You may even be called lazy, worthless, and so on if you do, but this is all nonsense. And although this is the state of things, remember that you have every right to use your benefits if the situation calls for it.

With that being said, the system isn’t geared against you. As I’ve outlined above, there are many different ways to escape the pressures of work for awhile if thats what you need to calm down a little. It’s true that depending on the coverage you’re trying to use things can get challenging, but it’s not impossible. Also, dont forget that in some cases you can acquire the services of an attorney and not go it alone, but if you go this route keep the cost in mind.

There is no way that I can make this an exhaustive enough article to even begin to do it justice. My goal was to give you a cursory overview of what disability is, and how it works. I want to leave you with one last tip. When it comes to ANY claim, but especially disability claims, documentEVERYTHING. Medical cost, lost wages, or whatever you can think of related to your claim, save it and make copies.



HR Support for Employees Suffering from Work-Related Stress

By Todd Bavol
HR Ninja
September 11, 2010

In my last couple of posts, I have been looking at the issue of employee absences, and especially those which are taken due to illness.  During this current recession, some of the main causes of staff sick leave have, of course, been stress-related illnesses such as anxiety and depression, illnesses which can often lead to prolonged absences which are extremely disruptive to employers businesses.  Unlike minor physical ailments which can usually be treated quickly and effectively by a short course of medication, emotional and psychological illnesses such as these can often prove much more difficult to deal with and require a good deal of careful handling by employers.

Even in this day and age, many people still struggle with the idea of mental illness of any kind.  Non-sufferers can find them difficult to understand and are often inclined to think that it is within the gift of the individual to simply pull themselves out of it.  In many cases they see conditions such as depression as a sign of an individual’s weakness, when in fact sufferers typically show immense strength in coping for as long as they do before going under.  Sufferers, on the other hand, as well as trying to deal with the illness itself, normally feel the stigma associated with it keenly.  Clearly then, a great deal of sensitivity is required on the part of employers when offering support to these individuals.

Depression brings with it feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness and when employees experience depression as a direct result of work-related problems, being totally ignored by their organization when they are off sick can exacerbate these. On the other hand, being badgered and pressurized to return to work before they are ready can cause them greater problems too.  The challenge for those in HR who are entrusted with the welfare of their staff, therefore, is to try and get the balance just right in terms of the frequency of contact and the type of support that they offer.

One of the key fears for people who have taken time off work due to work-related stress, anxiety or depression is that when they return to the workplace, the situation that they go back to will be no different than the one that they left and which caused their illness. If employers ultimately want to retain the services of these workers, therefore, taking the underlying cause of their problems seriously and dealing with them is absolutely essential.

People who are genuinely suffering from depression already feel bad enough about their inability to continue in their role and are therefore unlikely to make unreasonable demands of their employers when it comes to fixing the things which sent them over the edge.  Often minor adjustments to their working arrangements are all that are necessary to allow them to return to work and operate at their former levels of productivity. Without these being made, however, the potential for the illness to recur is greatly increased, along with the cost to the organization.




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Posted by Elvis on 09/04/11 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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