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Posted 22 March 2005 - 10:21 PM

The Clerk
Health Select Committee
Parliament Buildings
Wellington


Submission of ***** ****** on Injury Prevention Rehabilitation & Compensation Act Amendment Bill (No 3).


I wish to make submissions opposing the portions of the Bill that amend the provisions for declining entitlements in circumstances of non-compliance (Clause 23), and to deny review rights to claimants regarding certain discretionary decisions of the Corporation (Clause 23).

Person making Submissions
My name is **********. My contact details are:
Phone: ***********
Address: **********************************
Email: *************

I was formerly employed by Telecom NZ and suffered a gradual process injury. I medically retired in 1998 and I was receiving weekly compensation up until June 26 2003.

My concern is that this Bill will give ACC discretion to withhold a claimants backpayment of weekly compensation unjustly and at the whim of a case manager regardless of the entitlement under law.


Reasons
It has been my experience in dealing with ACC with regard to my own claim, as well as friends from our support group that ACC often threatens and indeed in some cases disentitles claimants under a spurious pretext of non compliance. It appears to me that the Bill would allow ACC to continue with this type of management and claimants are the worse off as no backpayment may be made due to the discretion of ACC.

In one instance of my particular case my weekly compensation was suspended until such time as I agreed to attend a meeting with ACC to discuss my rehabilitation plan. The case manager I had at that time, would not supply me with any of the intended rehabilitation information by way of mail. I was forced to meet without knowing what rehabilitation was to be discussed. Upon meeting with the case manager no rehabilitation plan was provided and no rehabilitation to assist with my injury was discussed.


This incident occurred a few weeks before the Christmas break. This caused a lot of stress and hardship for myself and my children. I was reinstated and backdated, however it never seems to make up for the immediate removal of your only source of income. This type of management can only be described as ACC's whipping belt to get claimant's to toe the line.

More recently, my weekly compensation was suspended last year in May 2003 for failing to provide ACC with authorization to obtain medical or other records. However I had provided ACC with the terms of my authorization on the 28 April 2003,1 completed and returned a claimant authority on 5 May 2003 and my case manager at that time thanked me for returning
it. Additionally, ACC would not advise me of the reports it wished to obtain, therefore I was unable to provide appropriate authorization. Regardless, my weekly compensation was suspended, and I was advised that as soon as my authorization was provided my weekly compensation would be reinstated however payments would not be backdated. I filed for a review of the situation and after I month my weekly compensation was reinstated and backdated. I received no apology from ACC and I was advised by a Branch Manager that the suspension was lawful and that AGO were simply giving me a second chance. The point is ACC could see no fault with the suspension.

Four weeks following this my weekly compensation was again suspended. That was in June 2003 and to date, I have not been reinstated. This suspension was due to failing to attend vocational rehabilitation assessments under Section 89 of the IPR&C Act. I requested information from ACC regarding an explanation of Section 88 of the Act and I was advised by ACC that Section 88 did not affect Section 89.1 requested an explanation from the Minister, Ruth Dyson's office and she took approx. 7 months to reply to the question. After this long she still did not answer the question regarding Section 88 of the Act. My OP had also supplied AGO with a medical certificate stating that I was unfit for vocational rehabilitation, that my injury had deteriorated and that a rheumatologist assessment was required. This information was ignored and my weekly compensation was still suspended. The Ministers office was made aware of all of this information.

I reviewed the suspension and I was unsuccessful. The reviewer did not answer the crux of the issue, which was the interpretation of section 88 of the IPR&C Act, no mention at all of Section 88 in the reviewers decision. I have appealed the review and I am currently awaiting a court date.

It has now been almost 16 months since the suspension of my weekly compensation. I have continued to supply ACC with medical certificates, so that ACC realizes that this injury has not disappeared, in fact I am considerably worse. I have attended the required rheumatologist assessment as recommended by my GP and the rheumatologist has recommended surgery. ACC has not responded to this, in fact ACC lost this information when I first sent it in. I had to send the medical's a second time.

The impact this has had on me personally and my children has been substantial. Without disclosing a great deal of my personal life publicly I would like to say that I was unable to continue living at the same residence, I had to withdraw my children from boarding school all due to financial hardship, a direct result of losing my weekly compensation.

There was a period of time I was supported financially by friends and family and that provision of finance has to be repaid. The only means for me to repay that is to hope that if I am successfully reinstated then I would expect to be backdated to cover the finance offered when I was without weekly compensation.

If ACC have the ability to disentitle and reinstate weekly compensation without recognizing fault, as in my case, then 1 believe my concern regarding the spurious pretext of non compliance decisions by ACC is legitimate. If the current system of suspending weekly compensation seems unfair, it would also seem to me that ACC's discretion to backdate payments would be far more unfair.

Other Claimants

I recently attended Auckland Hospital as a support person with a friend of mine, *** * *****.

*** ******* showed me documents whereby ACC had advised her that if she failed to complete and return a pain questionnaire her weekly compensation would be suspended. Upon reading the questionnaire, the front page reads, 'you do not have to complete this form if you do not wish to' However *** ***** was still forced to complete and return the document that had no bearing on her responsibilities in terms of the IPR&G Act.

*** ****** was provided with a form from ACC requesting it be completed or her weekly compensation would be suspended. The form was clearly for claimant's who were NOT working at the time they were injured. *** ***** returned the form due to the fact that *** ***** was working at the time she was injured. ACC issued *** ****** with a final warning letter advising her that her weekly compensation would be suspended if she did not complete and return the form.

On another occasion *** ***** was advised that she had to make appointments by a certain date or her weekly compensation would be suspended. Appointments were unable to be made as ACC would not provide the appropriate referral documents that were vital in securing appointments. ACC would not provide any referral documentation prior to the appointments and *** ***** had to get the Green Party Office to intervene so that she could secure the referral documents.

I also consider that it is a matter of access to justice that claimants should be able to review and appeal all of the Corporation's decisions. The proposal for the exercise of the new discretion to provide certain entitlements in excess of the limits prescribed by the Act to not be reviewable or appealable is unfair. It would mean that claimant's only recourse to a manifestly improper exercise of the discretion would be judicial review in the High Court, which is expensive and seldom speedy.

I wish to appear before the Select Committee to make an oral submission on the Bill.

Thankyou

***** ******
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