WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) - Astounded by the treatment not provided to a Lakeland man who was injured on the job, a Polk County psychologist says he is done with workers comp.
Dr. Frank Schultz of Winter Haven is concerned about the lack of oversight for workers compensation insurance companies.
He claims the workers' compensation system in Florida is a mess.
Dr. Schultz said if insurance companies are going to send him patients to treat and won't let him do his job, he doesn't want to work with them.
The Neil Eckelberger case, according to Dr. Schultz, is an example of what can happen when no one is looking over an insurance company's shoulder.
In September of 2017, chemicals and fire from an explosion at Natural Advantage Food Flavorings in Lakeland severely burned Neil's hands, arms, legs, neck and back.
Physically and mentally he hasn't been the same since.
"I'm just trying to get fixed," Neil explained. "I just want help."
Travelers Indemnity Company, his employer's workers comp insurance carrier sent Neil to various doctors, including Schultz, who early on detected signs of traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder.
"He has difficulty sleeping, has nightmares, constantly remembers, is agitated easily, has anxiety attacks, is hyper sensitive to light and sound," Dr. Schultz said. "A traumatic brain injured, post traumatic stress explosion victim."
After meeting with Neil, Dr. Schultz recommended he undergo the same treatment that Dr. Schultz performed on Special Forces with TBI.
"I very specifically used it for traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress and had amazing success rates," Dr. Schultz stated.
The eVox device he employs detects parts of the brain that are not functioning properly.
Using sounds or signals, it retrains brain signals.
The eVox evaluation takes about 30 to 45 minutes according to Dr. Schultz and costs about $500.
"But it all fell upon deaf ears," Neil's attorney Michael Winer said.
"Yet Travelers has spent thousands upon thousands of dollars in costs and thousands upon thousands of more dollars in attorneys fees to deny him this one simple benefit."
In Florida, workers comp insurance companies must authorize treatment for injured workers.
"The insurance company's job is to indemnify the person, which means to put that person back to where they once were to the best of their ability," Neil's wife Robin Eckelberger explained.
"They've not done that with my husband."
In a deposition aimed at getting Neil more medical help, Dr. Schultz labeled Travelers antagonistic because it repeatedly denied Neil treatment.
"I'm not getting better," Neil stated.
"My concern is that there is no oversight for whoever's administering the workers comp, because if Mr. Eckelberger is an example of what can happen and nobody's looking over somebody's should to make sure that it doesn't, that concerns me," Dr. Schultz added.
Dr. Schultz will not accept any more workers comp cases.
"Because I don't want to get in the middle of the mess," he explained.
In the meantime, without treatment for TBI and PTSD, Dr. Schultz says Neil's depression grows deeper.
What's going to happen to Neil if he doesn't get the help he needs?
"I have great concerns about that," Dr. Schultz said.
If you know of something that should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808.
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