Last updated 18:57, August 16 2016
Unflinching bureaucracy is denying a former manufacturing worker his much-needed compensation for more than 30 years of radiation-induced suffering.
Bryon O'Regan received radiation treatment in 1979 – but the procedure designed to save him instead severely hampered his quality of life.
O'Regan has a court ruling on his side and ACC accepts he would be entitled to recompense, but his bid keeps hitting a brick wall.
That's because O'Regan must prove he was working at the "date of injury".
However, Inland Revenue income tax records only go back a decade and the Palmerston North firm he said he was working for at the time has long ceased to exist.
So, O'Regan, who now lives in Auckland, is on a quest. He needs to find a former colleague from Ace Bags so they can give ACC an affidavit to prove he was on its payroll.
The saga began in 1979, when O'Regan received radiation at Palmerston North Hospital for a teratoma on his right testicle.
Since 1981, O'Regan has suffered from episodes of nausea and diarrhoea.
"It was so bloody embarrassing because I got diarrhoea – it is debilitating – I'd be ducking out to the toilet every half hour. It just got that embarrassing," O'Regan told Stuff.
In a court case O'Regan won against ACC in 2015, the judge's findings stated his condition initially improved, until 1981, when he was admitted to hospital with abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
The ruling, however, does not force ACC to pay out.
Over the next few years, O'Regan was sometimes fit and well. But in 1997 he was again admitted to hospital after a six-month-long bout of diarrhoea.
The judgment says there was "no dispute" O'Regan's life had been "significantly altered" by the treatment he received in 1979.
But when O'Regan tried to get compensation for his daily anguish, ACC told him to get proof he was working.
Its spokeswoman Stephanie Melville said O'Regan lodged a request for weekly compensation in 2008 – the year he became aware his injury was because of radiation.
"To pay weekly compensation ACC needs to confirm earner status at the date of injury."
O'Regan said he was asked to find someone who could verify his claim.
That proved easier said than done; O'Regan said three managers he worked under had died, as well as the company accountant.
While he searches, he still has to live in agony.
"The last three months have just been all bad," he said.
In addition to the damage to his bowel, O'Regan had osteoradionarcrosis in his lower back.
"Basically, the bones are disintegrating," O'Regan's son Paul said.
"He's not even 70 and he can hardly walk – it's not a very good quality of life."
Paul O'Regan said his father was asking for compensation to help live more comfortably.
"It's more so that it is not a daily struggle – no-one is trying to get rich here."
His father received the pension, but it was not enough to cover his $700-a-month medication.
"ACC are unwilling to concede. We don't really understand why," Paul O'Regan said.
Melville said O'Regan had recently provided two letters from family members saying he was working at the date of injury.
This would be considered by the weekly compensation panel to determine if it met the threshold for proof of earnings, she said.
After that, ACC would issue a new decision regarding the compensation.
Melville said it was not appropriate to comment on a court finding but ACC respected the 2015 decision.
NB This issue of verifying income is also significant to Social Security Reciprocal Agreements. For example, a woman who may have worked as a teenager ...who then marries ...and is then widowed ...and becomes entitled to superannuation .... is still expected to secure any overseas pensions entitlements!
Yup even if it only amounts to 30 cents per week in todays money.... which was related to their taxes paid over fifty years ago ...it will be deducted from their super by WINZ etc
More info on Section 70 deductions can be found here and here.
Another example would be if a long term kiwi ACC claimant is overseas for any period of time ... and is simultaneously entitled to any additional income assistance under reciprocal agreements to assist with cost of living... verifying their income & taxes paid as first a worker [both fulltime and partime records] ...plus taxes paid as an ACC claimant or WINZ beneficiary is required for individual years ie they are correlated to the taxation systems overseas etc
To this day I still do not know why the NZ Inland Revenue Department do not keep complete tax and benefit records of all kiwi and NZ workers for at least 60 years safely for such a very small population!!