The workers’ compensation system is designed to help workers get medical treatment and get back to work as soon as possible after they sustain a work-related injury. The system also provides protection for employers, as the workers’ compensation system provides that the worker is typically required to seek compensation through this system and cannot sue the employer in civil court. A worker can seek recovery for a large variety of injuries, including psychiatric injuries. As with a physical injury, workers who have sustained work-related psychiatric injuries will need to undergo examination by a medical professional. Part of the examination will result in a Global Assessment Function Score.
A Global Assessment Function (GAF) score must be obtained by any injured worker who is seeking to obtain permanent disability benefits through workers’ compensation. In the workers’ compensation system, only psychiatrists or psychologists can evaluate an injured worker and make this evaluation. The GAF score will be based on whether there is a permanent psychiatric disability and the degree or amount of that disability. The GAF score is a numeric scale used by appropriate mental health practitioners. The practitioner will provide a subjective rating for the social, occupational, and psychological functioning of the injured worker. For this rating, the lower the number, the greater the degree of permanent disability. For example, someone with a GAF score of 1 would be considered not disabled at all, and fully functioning, whereas someone with a score of 1 would be highly impaired.
There are a variety of issues used to evaluate psychiatric functioning. These include:
- Participating in activities including keeping a job, completing hygiene related tasks, and socializing with friends;
- Social effectiveness, including whether the worker can make and keep friendships and other community contacts;
- Family interactions, such as whether the injured worker neglects family relationships, has issues with domestic violence or frequent arguments;
- School performance, including grades and truancy; and
- Performance at work, including whether the worker can interact effectively with clients and coworkers, regularly attend work, and complete appropriate tasks.
The mental health professional will also look at different issues when evaluating symptom severity. These include anxiety, insomnia, suicidal ideations, or depression, just to name a few.
We have experience assisting our clients understand the role of GAF scores in workers’ compensation cases. Call us today to talk about your business.