It has become very common for doctors
to send people involved in Louisiana Workers Compensation claims
for a "Functional Capacity Evaluation" before providing
an opinion about what type of work the patient can
perform. Too many Louisiana Workers Compensation doctors just go along with whatever
the physical therapist who performs the Functional
Capacity Evaluation decides. Considering the limited
value of the information that can be obtained from a
Functional Capacity Evaluation, many patients conclude
that the purpose of the Functional Capacity Evaluation
is more for the Louisiana Workers Compensation insurance companies benefit than to obtain a
reliable estimate of the claimants' functional capacity.
A Functional Capacity Evaluation (often called an
"FCE,") is a series of physical exercises that usually
take only a few hours to complete. The test is typically
given in a one-day session lasting about six hours, or
over two days, lasting a few hours each day.
often includes standing, climbing, lifting weights,
carrying boxes, squeezing calipers and other activities,
all while being observed by a physical therapist. When
the test is over, the therapist prepares a report that
details the results and provides an opinion about the
level of physical activity the claimant can perform.
There are so many problems with the process that it's
sometimes hard to believe the degree to which doctors
and judges will rely upon the Functional Capacity
- The test takes only a few hours on an isolated day or
two, making it highly unlikely that it will produce an
accurate representation of the patient's functional
capacity in a job working eight hours or more per day,
day-in and day-out, over an unlimited number of days.
- Functional Capacity Evaluations are especially
questionable for people with spine injuries (neck or
lower back). People with spine injuries are often able
to perform a few isolated movements without a serious
flare-up of their symptoms, but it would be impossible
for them to perform those same activities many times
over the course of a day or repetitively on consecutive
days. In fact, simply sitting in a chair for hours at a
time often becomes very painful or impossible for people
with serious lower back injuries. The Functional
Capacity Evaluation rarely even attempts to test for
- Unfortunately, the test often turns into a type of
trap. The therapist will often repeatedly tell the
patient to stop if they feel pain and remind them they
shouldn't do anything to injure themselves. Most
patients follow these instructions. The therapist may
then write in the report that the patient didn't give it
their best effort and showed "self-limiting" behavior.
The therapist may also ask the patient to perform tests that have nothing to do with the medical
conditions upon which the Workers Compensation claim is
based. The therapist may then use unexpected or
inconsistent responses to those tests to allege that the
patient is behaving "inappropriately," i.e., faking it.
- The therapist will almost always report that the
patient is able to return to some type of work. In fact,
many therapists use FCE Report forms that fail to
include "Currently Unable To Return to Work" as an
option. It's then up to the doctor who ordered the test
to review the therapists conclusions and explain in his
report to the Louisiana Workers Compensation insurance company
why the therapist's report should or should not be
accepted at face value.
Once there is evidence that indicates that
you may be able to return to some type of work, the
Compensation insurance company must find out whether the
company you were working for when you were injured will
allow you to return to work with their company.
past, injured employees were concerned that their
employer would bring them back to a "light-duty"
position created just for them and then "lay them off"
after a few weeks, claiming that no further Louisiana Workers
Compensation benefits should be paid because they had
"proven" that the employee could work.
tactic has become less common. It has become more
complex and risky for an employer to provide an injured
employee with a modified or "light-duty" job and then
later terminate them without cause. This is especially
true if it's clear that your medical condition will
never allow you to return to the type of work that you
were doing before your injury. Depending on the extent
of your residual disability and the amount of time
you've been out of work, the Americans With Disabilities
Act or the Family & Medical Leave Act may be substantial
factors in your employer's decision about whether to
allow you to return to work. A few employers have
extensive "light-duty" programs, but those employers are
The more common issue that arises is that the doctor
selected by the employer to perform a
Second Medical Opinion SMO may release you to
essentially unrestricted work, while your
treating doctor continues to keep you on
restricted duty or no-work status. The employer will
then agree to allow the claimant to return to work in
their old job with no restrictions. Additionally, the
insurance company will tell the employee that work is
available, so they are terminating Louisiana Workers Compensation
income benefits. Thousands of Louisiana Workers Compensation
claimants face this situation each year.
If your employer will not allow you to return to
work with their business, the Vocational Rehabilitation
Expert hired by the Louisiana Workers Compensation insurance
company may ask to meet with you for an interview. The
purpose of the interview is for them to prepare a report
about your interests, goals, personal circumstances and
other jobs you've had in the past. They may also ask you
to undergo basic skills testing. They may even help you
prepare a resume.
The Vocational Rehabilitation
Expert will then prepare letter identifying a job, or a
short list of jobs, they say
match your current physical capabilities and skills.
This letter often referred to as a
Compensation Labor Market Survey.
Labor Market Surveys