Congresswoman Giffords Rehabilitation Likely Workers Compensation: Learn About Physical Rehab

Most people would not think of workers compensation when hearing about the Tucson, Arizona tragedy where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other people were shot. As Congresswoman Giffords and the members of her staff are federal employees, and as they were at an official function for Congresswoman Giffords, she and her staff would be covered for workers compensation by the U.S. Department of Labors Office of Workers Compensation Programs, which administers the Division of Federal Employees Compensation. This type of workers compensation is called FECA – Federal Employees Compensation Act.
Congresswoman Giffords, like other employees with a brain injury, will be going through physical rehabilitation. Most everyone understands that rehabilitation “rehab” is medical care to improve a medical condition, but most people do not know what rehab consist of. (WCxKit)
Rehab is specialized medical care for the treatment of a disability from injury or illness. The goal of rehab is to stabilize the injured employees medical condition and to assist the employee to recover from the injury or illness. The rehab process is administered by a team of specialists as the injured employee will normally need the medical expertise of a variety of doctors.
Rehabilitation hospitals are not all the same. One rehab hospital may specialize in burn cases while another rehab hospital may specialize in traumatic amputations. The initial medical provider treating the employee for his/her injuries needs to identify a rehabilitation hospital that is appropriate for the employee's medical condition. The rehabilitation hospital must have the proper mixture of specialty services needed by the employee. 
Rehab strives to return the employee to their pre-injury condition, but not everyone will have a 100% recovery. Most injured employees admitted to a rehabilitation hospital start with a program designed to provide the employee a path to full recovery.   However, often is unknown how much recovery an employee will have until the employee has been in rehab for a period of time.   Rehab will assist the employees who do not recovery 100% to learn to live with their disabilities. 
When an employee is sent to a rehabilitation hospital, it is because they need specialized services to recover their ability to function. Rehab incorporates numerous medical specialties that work together as a team. For an employee with a brain injury, the medical teams that will assist them include:
1.      Neurophysiologist
2.      Neurosurgeons
3.      Neuro-ophthalmologist
4.      Audiologist
5.      Speech Therapists
6.      Rehabilitation Case Manager
With a brain injury, other parts of the body may be affected. Some of the additional medical specialists that can be brought in to assist with the rehab include:
1.      Physical Therapist
2.      Occupational Therapist
3.      Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist
4.      Rehabilitation Nurse
5.      Clinical Psychologist
6.      In addition to all these specialties, the rehabilitation hospital will either provide or be able to refer an injured employee to dieticians, chaplains and social workers.
When the injured employee is transferred from the post-accident hospital to the rehabilitation hospital, the medical team at the rehab hospital will thoroughly review the employee's medical records to establish the types of specialized medical care that will be needed. In addition to reviewing the medical history, the employee will be put through a series of test to establish the medical and physical restrictions that prevent the employee from functioning better. 
Once admitted to the rehabilitation hospital, the employee's disability level will be measured using two scales. The Functional Independence Measure is used to asses the physical and cognitive abilities of the injured employee, and the Functional Assessment Measure is used to gauge emotional status, orientation, attention, community integration, reading and writing skills and employability. 
The physical and cognitive test will include testing to see if the employee can stand on his/her own, walk without assistance or not, chew and swallow without assistance, talk and communicate freely, and the testing will show if the employee can understand and comprehend instructions. Each of the specialists will also administer their own evaluations to see what the employee can and can not do. Based on the assessment of the medical team, a customized program is designed to diminish or eliminate the disability.
There is no standard time frame for a person to be in a rehab hospital. One employee may be fully recovered in a month or less, while another employer with extreme injuries could be in the rehab hospital six months or more. However, during the time the employee is in the rehabilitation program, much of the physical and cognitive testing will be repeated to measure the employees progress. Also, prior to the discharge from the rehab hospital, the Functional Independence Measure and the Functional Assessment Measure test will be repeated to measure the employee's overall level of improvement while in the rehab program. (WCxKit)
Physical rehabilitation is usually reserved for the employees who have the most severe disabilities, but it can often be effective in reducing the disability level (and the amount of the permanent partial disability award) in mid-level workers compensation claims. When your workers compensation adjuster and nurse case manager are working with an employee that has been admitted to a physical rehabilitation program as the result of an injury, support your employee throughout the process. Many employees who are admitted to a rehab program return to work to be productive again.

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing.  See for more information. Contact: or 860-553-6604.

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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

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