Looking for Something?

Will I live to regret it?

Author:

April 2, 2014 update:

(after my WorkSafe Agent reply)

I’ll get my cheese @WorkSafe_Vic…

Idiot!

Have you had that moment? Do you remember promising yourself you’d always try your best in life and remain as honest as you can? But then down the track something happens and you find yourself asking, ‘why did I have to do rock the boat?’

Often I wonder how much easier life might be if I didn’t try so hard, if I gave in a little and didn’t aspire for the best I could possibly be. This positive attitude has occasionally got me into nothing but trouble. Sure, I have a clear conscious, but I’ve had to endure more stress, financial loss, and much more pain. No guesses, I’m talking about the Victorian WorkCover system again.

After my initial battle in 2009 with my WorkSafe Agent where I was first assessed by a Medical Panel, I was found to have no working capacity indefinitely, which meant three quarters of my pre-injury weekly wage was certified until the end, of what was projected to be, my working life. But, with diagnosis and great treatment (none of which has stemmed from the WorkCover system), I have improved. After acquiring a regular monthly design job that covers the wages of our full-time designer presented itself and being desperate to revisit our old life of working together, Theo (my husband) and I considered re-establishing our design studio, Origin of Image. We wanted to celebrate our life together, I wished for some resemblance to the ‘working human being’ I was, I craved the challenge of a client brief and most of all I desperately wanted to remove myself from being part of a poisonous system, at least when seen from the viewpoint of an injured worker.

I proceeded in a most unrealistic way to convince myself that I had a working capacity. I got excited at being able again to think for more than 10 minutes, I got excited at not having to sleep throughout every day in order to function, I got excited when finding that I could conceptualise again.

Was I daft?

I declared a work capacity of 9 hours per week that was made up of scattered snippets of working time. I thought this was good for me and fair to the system, as did my family medical practitioner. That breakthrough was at the end of 2012. By January 2013 my weekly payments ceased completely. WorkCover legislation does NOT support any worker whose hours of employment don’t meet a weekly minimum of 15 hours (and there are some other terms of what monetary total you can earn, and feel free to bore yourself reading these laws here). If you feel you may be able to work and want to even try some work, or if you’ve thought volunteering may be a great way to test your ability, neither is an acceptable option according to this system. If you happen to be investigated during your work trial, you will be labelled as fraudulent. So you’re going to have to be pretty certain before making the decision to return to work, and you also have to be confident you will be able to maintain this working capacity for the rest of your working days.

Was I sure I’d be able to work 15 hours every week for the rest of my life?

Well I knew I didn’t want to be labelled a ‘fraud’ for attempting to return to work. I felt I had no choice but to forfeit my payments in favour of working 9 hours a week. I was given no financial support. Pathetic? Absolutely.

I carried on like this for almost 8 months, sacrificing all compensation payments to make sure I could sustain a capacity for work. In that time, I also realised I could meet the 15 hour statutory minimum – how I love the convenience of working from home and having Theo here to help all day! Realistically, any work for me, would not be an option were it not for these two crucial factors.

I remained on 9 hours a week (without compensation) until June 24, 2013, whilst making certain I could maintain my work ability. Theo and I have found a way to work within my limitations. I have now reached the minimum 15 hour per week capacity that allows for a “top up” payment of compensation. This couldn’t be better news to Theo and I, in fact we thought an organisation that our Government created, one that claims to support injured workers and is meant to focus on return to work, would also be thrilled. You guessed it, I was left to feel they would have preferred that I was hit by a bus and off their books.

I submitted my 15 hour weekly capacity report to my WorkSafe Agent (WorkSafe contracts with them to administer the Workers’ Compensation Act) on June 26th, 2013. I was greeted by yet another new case manager (who has been changed at least three times since then) and their reference to ‘my employer’ in the initial communication. For some reason the agent finds it impossible to understand the concept of self employment, but clearly this reflects the system setup. The response to my updated work capacity was as follows:

You will be required to send in your tax certificate. As the application form states, it is mandatory for you to supply the following information with you application – Proof of current hours worker and income – Written opinion from your current treating medical practitioner about the following: -The relationship between your work-related injury and your current work capacity -Whether you are working to the limit of your current  work capacity -Whether your current work capacity is likely to continue indefinitely or if there is potential for your current work capacity to increase – Certificates of capacity (if not always provided) And – Tax returns (at a minimum, the tax return from the previous financial year if 130 weeks expired in or after that financial year, otherwise all tax returns since 130 weeks expired).

I hope this helps.

Extremely positive communication… and as helpful as another flare up of my pain! I understand that the system requires paperwork but I knew the direction where this communication was heading, as I’ve had over 6 years experience with this poor excuse for ‘quality income protection’. I was anticipating months and months of nothing short of more WorkCover HELL. But I faced it head on!

The process (whilst unpaid) 2013 -2014

  • It took over a month for the WorkSafe Agent to clarify what specific application process was needed and that I had to provide all the information requested. There seemed to be no understanding of what my 15 hr capacity signified
  • A new application process meant I had to provide payslips and tax returns, which I did, but these got lost. We faxed/posted/emailed them… again
  • Then there was more information requested, we sent this in (it took a month to hear about a minor detail my family doctor was required to provide)
  • It was confirmed I had to be assessed once again by the Medical Panel and undergo a Vocational Assessment
  • The date was confirmed for December 2013 to present myself to the Medical Panel
  • Preparation for the Medical Panels – again endless documentation not to mention stress of presenting to the practitioners of the Panels knowing very well they do not have the system procedures to assess Pudendal Neuralgia as a measurable “impairment”
  • Presenting myself to the Medical Panels (horrific)
  • Waiting for additional information the WorkSafe agent had not provided to the Panels so they could make their decision (this took about a month!)
  • No communication for weeks on end
  • Waiting for the Medical Panels Opinion, (arrived Jan 21, 2014)
  • No communication for weeks
  • I was told the Agent for WorkSafe had 60 days to respond to the findings of the Panel (but I am not sure this is true as my request for them to provide the source of this detail in the legislation has been ignored 5 times),
  • WorkSafe Agent eventually responds after 50+ days (March 11, 2014)
  • Another request for pay slips is again made as well as a declaration of my working hours and wages
  • This form was sent/faxed/emailed, signed by me on Monday (March 17, 2014)

And, no it won’t end here because now the WorkSafe Agent ‘Technical Manager’ is trying to tell me I’m not entitled to the months (June 18th – Sep 25th) it took for my Tax Returns to be completed and officially signed (the stamp from the Accountant is the magic date apparently). To clarify:

The date 25 September 2013 is the date that your entitlement to Section 93CD payments would commence pursuant to Section 93CD(5). The entitlement under this section commences from the date that the Agent receives a valid application. While your Application form was signed on the 18th of June 2013, you had not supplied the 2013 tax returns until a later date (25 September 2013 is the date of the date stamp on the tax return). Part four of the application form lists mandatory requirements for a valid application and the 2013 tax records were the last piece of information required to meet that requirement.
This is written on the application form itself on part 4. We cannot ‘receive’ an application before it is valid and if there was a delay in your accountant providing one of the mandatory components then this is outside of (WorkSafe Agent’s name) control.

If you do not agree with a decision that has been made on your claim of course you have appeal rights and this could be taken to Conciliation which is your rights but hopefully this gives you an idea of where that date came from and why.

You bet I’ll be looking into conciliation over this decision. One thing that this system has taught me is to be tough, to not believe anything a WorkSafe Agent tells me, and that many of the staff employed are incompetent, and yes, they do come out with some severe irrational statements. One such example (other than the one I just provided): my case had been allocated a set amount of funds for medical reimbursements and that my limit had been reached. Putrid, I know…

So where am I now?

I declared I had a work capacity in 2013 after having been “written off” for life by a Medical Panel (a Federal Court decision) in 2009. In what should have been a most positive experience I have not received one cent from my WorkSafe Agent since January 2013 when I first declared that I was attempting 9 hours a week.

It’s so difficult for me to continue to work. I’m completely reliant on Theo but my moral ethics will not let me rest, never-failing to notify me daily that I am able to contribute to our business and in so doing and remaining honest, this will bring about a positive outcome for us.

I’ve had no one within the system to guide me or to offer help during this long drawn out and humiliating process. The system’s main driver seems to me to be for the WorkSafe Agent to ensure that any progress made is as difficult and stressful for injured workers, so that they give up their entitlement to rightful compensation or, worse still, to make them so fearful that they never attempt to work again.

I have never, in the whole 7 years of being exposed to this system, felt I could trust anyone, felt supported, given hope, or treated with respect. I have not received any kind of care but rather I’m left to feel and to be treated as guilty of my crime – sustaining a workplace accident.

I won’t accept such callous treatment, I won’t accept this grotesque form of income protection that WorkSafe calls ‘quality income protection’, and it’s lucky for me that I have help to battle and savings to live off (which are rapidly diminishing mind you). Not being intimidated, fearful, or swallowed up by this system and its primitive ways is the reason I searched for and found my diagnosis and got myself back to work! It’s the reason why another Medical Panel, for the first time, has acknowledged someone with Pudendal Neuralgia (even though they can’t verify it!!), and it’s the reason why I’ll eventually get my entitlements too!

Above all, I won’t allow this system to alter my ethics. I am not an idiot, I was not daft, I will not live to regret my decision. I’ll even top that, by continuing to expose this system and to use my voice to help other chronic pain affected injured workers in the process.

Feedback

19
  • soula

    I’ve had a reply, no apologies for being late but now at least I know why the #WorksafeAgent was late. They were working hard on trying to prove my art makes me some kind of a living. Please, I’ve been through this before with the Income Protection insurer and all the process provides is a little more interest for the insurer (which is their job) so hats off for the effort guys, hats off for leaving it as late as possible so you can maximise that interst on MY money. It will take 6-8 weeks to get to conciliation now, so that’s another few months in my return to work process WITHOUT support from this system that prides itself on returning injured workers back to work.

    For now, please let me entertain you (while Theo prepares us for conciliation- not much work to do actually as the paperwork is always on standby in the WorkSafe folder). I have some points to share from the ‘rejection’ letter, this is by far my favorite, in fact I think it deserves its own hashtag, I’ll call it: #worksafeagentstupidity:

    The WorkSafe Agent is attempting to prove I am an established artist making a living from my artwork. I, apparently, made money entering a prize! (it cost me $70!!!):
    “That you are actively submitting your works into Art competitions with financial prizes such as the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize”.

    I mean, really… you think THAT’S going to deter me? How about I give you another free swing? Twitts.
    Conciliation form in the mail.

    • John Quintner

      Hallelujah, at long last you have received a response from your WorkSafe-appointed Agent. Reading between the lines of your post, this terse excerpt from Shakespeare’s King Lear, Act IV, Scene 1, seems to sum it up:
      “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,-
      They kill us for sport.”

  • Wanda

    Soula in response to your question and having asked myself the same question now for around 30 years.
    Perhaps John’s suggestion of a class action is not so far-fetched only it would need to be against the Health Services Group (Workcover and TAC) as they are the body responsible for criteria and the “clinical framework”.
    Agents/assessors are simply the puppets with strings embedded, all following policy of “monkey see monkey do”.
    We can at least look at starting a community register of protest/petition and see if a senate review would be willing to look at the “real” issues.
    As you are aware of the 26th of April.
    Kikqua Therapy Exhibition – Title: kNOw PAIN – Meet KIKQUA
    “Shades of Pain” – Stories by “A survivor called Wanda”
    The 27th April – 3rd of May (open to public) is a willing platform to host a petition?

    Thursday the 2nd of May is a day of experiential delivery for learning this community program.

    Presentations and workshops will be conducted with Health practitioners and consumers who are not afraid of the “case managers” scorn by: Such condescending comments as
    “You should know better” while their requests for client services/equipment are denied.
    Or a case manager who judges a client with comments such as “don’t you want to drive your own recovery”?
    Perhaps the greater challenge is for these so called “professional workers” to come out of their towers and actually put their faces to the framework. Allowing for their views to be aired in the arena “fairness”
    Where – Holy Trinity Hall.
    Cnr. of Warragul Road and Princes Highway Oakleigh
    (Ample free off street parking is available from both roads and the area is well service with public transport).
    Why KIKQUA therapy?
    Knowledge, Skills and Motivation are required for communications and self-directive pain management in Australia.
    KIKQUA – Acronym for Knowledge Is the Key Question Understand and Apply is a method of engagement for cross-cultural competency training.
    Admission is by donation and booking are being accepted at info@kikquatherapy.com.au for catering purposes.

  • John Quintner

    @ Soula. Yes the situation is not only pathetic but also scandalous. This is particularly so when you are aware that WorkSafe is keeping a watchful eye on your website postings. Accordingly, you might also like to make your unfortunate predicament known to the following organizations: Painaustralia, Chronic Pain Australia and the Australian Pain Management Association.

    • Soula

      Yes John, I have spoken and am in regular contact with all three organisations. WorkSafe could actually learn alot if they wanted to and not by sneakily looking at my site but rather asking for some decent feedback. They could use my case as an example of someone who has managed to change her situation after being initially written off by the system but I have to assume, after running for decades without addressing their primitive approach, that there is a great benefit for them to proceed in the way they do.

  • John Quintner

    Soula, have you considered the possibility of initiating a Class Action against your WorkSafe agent? This would be a drastic step to take if you cannot obtain answers to your questions and reasons for the withholding of your compensation entitlements. However, there may be others who find themselves in the same boat as you. Given that one in three compensation claimants are dissatisfied with the performance of this agent you may find there is substantial support for launching a class action.

    • Soula

      I have emailed the WorkSafe Agent AGAIN today. I have not heard a reply since my email to them with all paperwork on Monday nor if the paperwork was received earlier in the week. I have not had any response. I was hoping there would be something in the mail, there isn’t. I will certainly contact the Ombudsman and look into other options. The decision by the Medical Panels was made 2 months ago… As for class action, I will look into it. This is pathetic.

    • John Quintner

      Soula, I find it impossible to see what possible benefit your agent would gain by refusing to engage with you in the important issues you have raised. A few implausible scenarios come to mind but I suppose you will find out in due course.

  • John Quintner

    Kafkaesque? You may need to read “The Trial”.

    • soula

      I think I might John… is there a lead in there, a way to tackle this appalling treatment? Our accountant called today, law states he has til May to complete the Tax Returns… but we’ll have to wait to hear from the WorkSafe chiefs, after all, they seem to rule the world.

  • Pat Jackson

    I admire your courage! I am fighting a different type problem where having PN all my medical drugs and treatment has been stopped. My Doctor after 14 years decided to no longer provide much needed controlled
    substance drugs for pain! Simply sent me a letter stopping any treatment for me! Not sure how its going to work out to get pain/management to help! Bless you & stay strong!!!!

    • soula

      Hi Pat, thanks for the comment. I’m grateful for my courage too, you need it to battle this ridiculous system. I’ve not had any medical reimbursements for years either. Not even for the treatments that got me back up and back to work. I’ll be chasing those, I’ll keep you posted. Stay strong, good luck with your battle too.

    • Brenda

      Reading all that you have been through Soula is certainly depressing! Yet through it all, you remain strong! What is wrong with bureaucracy?! From what I can gleen, you must spend countless hours filling in forms and replacing forms because of their incompetency! Perhaps you could keep a log regarding paperwork? I have never met Theo, but I hold him in high esteem for how he manages your health issues! It all sounds to me like you are experiencing the never ending red tape. Honestly, wouldn’t it be easier to give up? That’s what they are banking on I bet!! Hang in there GF! You are not alone… ((((hugs))))

      • soula

        Gorgeous Brenda, you are a great source of strength as are all my readers. Paperwork, did you see this: http://www.pudendalnerve.com.au/2011/12/20/just-a-little-paperwork/ and note that was posted in 2011!!!! All that paperwork accumulated in 4 years. I’ve learnt now, I email, that way I have all of it in writing. Letters, for some reason, seem to get lost all the time. Naughty posty!
        Where would I be without Theo?.. I don’t want to think about it. Of course they’re banking on giving up… and the bus coming along! Thanks for the support, those hugs are divine. (((((backatyou))))

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to my newsletter

Subscribe to my blog posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to new posts by email.

Definitions of pain

What is Pudendal Neuralgia (PN)?
Most simply put PN is Carpal Tunnel in the pelvis/buttocks. Compression of the Pudendal Nerve occurs after trauma to the pelvis and is aggravated with pressure. The pain is often described as a toothache like pain, with spasms, sensations of tingling, numbness, or burning. It can be very debilitating.

What is Neuropathic pain?
Neuropathic pain is the result of an injury or malfunction in the peripheral or central nervous system. The pain is often triggered by an injury, but this injury may or may not involve actual damage to the nervous system. More…

Pain Train my online health record. New SPECIAL price $14.95 per year

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Order my book $31 (inc. postage)

Archives