Monday, April 4, 2011

My Psychologist's Report

November 30, 2010

To Whom It May Concern:

I write at the request of my patient, Barry Schmittou, whom I have treated at intervals since November 2001. In this correspondence, I offer my professional assessment of Mr. Schmittou’s health status, including the impact of the ordeal to which he has been subjected and continues to be subjected.

My professional impression at the onset of treatment in November 2001 was that Mr. Schmittou suffered from depression and anxiety, precipitated by medical and occupational problems. He was dysphoric, apprehensive with occasional panic-like symptoms, angry, irritable, with rambling (non-psychotic) speech. He had difficulty concentrating and focusing his attention. His frustration tolerance was substantially limited. It is also my clinical impression that these symptoms remain prominent and have worsened, largely due to his protracted struggle with Metlife for disability benefits.

After I met Mr. Schmittou in November 2001, it was my clinical impression that he was struggling with the following extreme stressors, which precipitated his depression and anxiety. First, he was understandably concerned that the nevus in his right eye might be cancer (eventually confirmed melanoma) and might be life-threatening.

Second, he was concerned about occupational limitations due to vision problems.

Third, he considered himself wrongfully terminated in July 2001. Based on written communications from his managers, friends, and coworkers, I have concluded Mr. Schmittou was an effective, organized, and well-liked National Field Manager prior to the rapid onset of his visual problems. In fact, four months before being terminated by employer, TMG, Mr. Schmittou received a commendable performance evaluation and a raise. However, Mr. Schmittou reported that when he expressed to supervisors his distress about vision problems and eye pain, and asked about his options including workers comp and disability, he was encouraged to meet deadlines and simply to take breaks to rest his eyes.

A caring supervisor/employer could have intervened immediately and suggested Mr. Schmittou take any necessary steps to protect his health and offered information about workers comp or disability. Instead, he was fired four days after his supervisor requested and received his medical records. Fourth and finally, the employer and its insurer, Metlife, delayed sending claim forms to Mr. Schmittou, and Metlife ignored a handwritten claim from him.

Again, my impression was and remains that the above stresses precipitated his depression and anxiety, and may have triggered some bipolar instability. But those stresses were to be dwarfed by the mechanisms of dealing with a huge insurance company.

During the course of our interactions, Mr. Schmittou has described to me that Metlife took a variety of actions that violated his expectation. His expectation was that the insurer would honor promises made to the insured, if the insured was so unfortunate as to need to draw upon the insurance benefit that had been purchased.

Mr. Schmittou applied for short-term and long-term disability benefits based on visual impairments and an additional claim for disability benefits based on psychological impairments. He has attested that Metlife ignored, delayed, denied, and woefully mishandled his disability claims in a variety of seemingly intentional, orchestrated, and deceptive ways. U. S. Magistrate Judge Bryant agreed that Metlife abused the prescribed claims procedures and had treated Mr. Schmittou’s claim in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

It is my impression that three medical doctors paid by Metlife appeared to have ignored medical evidence. For example, Metlife’s paid consultant, Dr. Yanik, "evaluated" Mr. Schmittou without ever having seen him or his medical record from 2004 through 2008. In fact, from the time he filed the claims in 2002 until the Court ordered a review in 2008, Metlife ignored both his claims for long-term disability based on vision impairments and on psychological impairments. In treatment, I have observed that the impact of such actions by Metlife has resulted in exacerbation of Mr. Schmititou’s psychological symptoms and periods of significant destabilization.

While being diagnosed with cancer was itself traumatizing, the subsequent nine-year struggle with Metlife has proved even more devastating to Mr. Schmittou. His COBRA insurance expired. He had no money for food, housing, insurance, medical treatment, or medication for four years until he received Social Security Disability benefits. His credit has been ruined. He has had to move in with his parents. He has developed desperate fears about homelessness. Understandably, his mental health deteriorated, traumatized by this threat to his life, his well-being, his sense of wholeness. Now, in addition to his impaired vision, he has intense psychological distress, impaired concentration, impaired frustration tolerance, fitful sleep, irritability, and hypervigilance, all hallmarks of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a result, he is at greater risk for impulsive acts against himself or others.

At various times, Mr. Schmittou has informed Metlife how desperate he has become. He has begged Metlife to stop the delays and obfuscations, because they added to his stress and depression, even to the point he often wished he were dead. Currently, he is so demoralized he is not seeking treatment for suspicious skin lesions or disturbing GI symptoms.

In light of the violations Metlife has committed against Mr. Schmittou and Metlife's awareness of the additional harm caused him, Metlife's actions seem irresponsible, inhumane, dangerous, and reckless.

For the well-being of every citizen who runs the risk of being sold an insurance benefit only to subsequently experience the insurer mount an unyielding mountain of obstructions from bureaucrats, in-house medical agents, and lawyers to avoid actually delivering the product they cheerfully sold, I would urge the reader of this correspondence to give attention to Mr. Schmittou's claims of violations by a powerful insurance company.

(Name removed from this copy posted on the internet)

Here are quotes from an urgent letter that my Psychologist wrote to Assistant Secretary of Labor Ms. Borzi and Metlife Senior Management on December 2nd, 2010.

Psychologist’s Quotes :

I write at the request of my patient, Mr. Barry Schmittou. It is his hope that a comment from a treating source will help verify the harm he has experienced due gto multiple violations during the application and appeal process of his disability claim. Mr. Schmittou is experiencing severe psychological distress, which has intensified since February 2010, when he began the appeals process for his long term disability claims for vision impairments and psychological impairments.

His intense emotional misery is a daily struggle. His concentration and sleep are impaired. His thoughts and emotions are so troubled he describes feeling “like my brain is on fire”. I think he struggles to express the fullness of his distress. The fact that he has not sought recommended medical treatment for a variety of physical symptoms because he “doesn’t see the use” is evidence of the severity of his depression, in my opinion.”

He recently reported having 5 accidents (e.g. bumping and bloodying his head on a table, walking into a door frame) in the last month. He says falls or near falls are not uncommon experiences. These incidents are consistent with recommendations of his own doctor and the Social Security Judge who concluded Mr. Schmittou is unable to balance, kneel, crouch, crawl or stoop. I myself have witnessed his unsteady gait and tendency to bump into things. Even the casual observer could quickly discern this gentleman has vision problems.

I have deep concern for my patient if he has to repeat the appeals process. He needs for this claim ordeal to be over. For the sake of my patients overall health, I respectfully request that you consider that Mr. Schmittou’s disability claim based on vision impairments may have been mishandled or denied in error.

Any consideration that can be given this individual will be appreciated.

(Name removed from this copy posted on the internet)

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