An emotional support animal (ESA) can aid those suffering from a psychiatric injury. After an injury, injured workers can suffer from anxiety or depression, chronic pain, emotional recall of a traumatic work accident, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
An ESA does not need to be specifically trained in order to care for his owner, unlike a service animal, such as a guide dog for the blind.
Workers’ compensation in most states includes care for psychiatric injuries. Whether the workers’ compensation insurance carrier will pay for an ESA is whether the care provided by the ESA can be considered medically necessary.
Medically necessary care includes care that reduces symptoms or improves functioning. In the context of a psychiatric injury, an ESA can help patients by giving them something to focus on instead of their own mental condition. The care does not have to lead to the patient returning to the workforce or reducing his disability, although in many cases the ESA may have that effect. The ESA must however be beneficial, and be offered to ameliorate the psychiatric injury.
The pet owner suffering from PTSD may have problems going out in public. With an ESA, he may obtain a sense of calm with the dog with him. Someone who feels loneliness and isolated, due to her work-related depression, may obtain a sense of happiness and well-being from the ESA.
Often, for a psychiatric patient, an ESA is easier to live with than a family member or live-in companion. A person, unlike a dog or cat, may judge or exacerbate the patient’s anger or mood swings. The companionship that the ESA provides is unconditional and judgment-free.
Obtaining authorization for an ESA requires the prescription of a licensed mental health professional. An attorney skilled in workers compensation-related claims can help argue that such care is compensable under your state/Federal workers’ compensation law.