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Workers' Compensation System and Disability Claims for Stress

April 02, 1988

It does not surprise me that, given the option of a way out of a stressful job situation, many people would take advantage of the workers' compensation system. But as expected, many people also use it to leech from the state. And of course there is a lobby of attorneys dependent upon such claims who object to reform, and reformers who reflexively strike at the system, threatening to curtail the aid for those who need it as well as those who do not.

But the problem of the claims "devouring" too much money is merely a symptom of the real illness: the simple truth that our society, the world that we have created and live, has become too stressful for too many people to bear. Our single-minded insistence on acquiring things, money and status, so amply taught us and reflected in the television shows, movies and droning commercials that we watch, even many of the books and articles and ads that we read, has made our world a pressure cooker of cutthroat competition.

It should come as no surprise, then, that those whose minds and souls are ultimately sprained from the tremendous exertions that are required to keep one's ground in the quicksand of our world of company politics and conspicuous consumption snap with nervous breakdowns, drug and alcohol binges, or going berserk with machine guns, so that only enforced relaxation and even psychiatric care are needed. Nor should it surprise us that some of the survivors in our "technohabitat" opt for leeching from the system that spawned their mercenary mentalities, whether by fraudulent disability claims or personal injury suits in automobile crashes. By erecting the system that believes in dollars and things over people, we have created the artificial need for stress disability; removing that relief valve will only cause it to reincarnate in some other form, probably worse than before.

Only when we realize that we must reexamine the very foundations of our values, our world views, of the highly synthetic lives and roles that we have created for ourselves--only then can we do away with the symptoms of the ills that plague us.

S. KENNETH KAWANO

Redondo Beach

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