In March, OHCOW Toronto hosted a forum “Will I still get compensation or am I just too old?” that addressed the presumption underlying the Ontario Board’s new draft benefits policies – that workers are being compensated for symptoms that are more related to the natural ageing process rather than the work-related accident.
The Office of the Worker Adviser’s presentation (below) on common back injuries in the workers’ compensation context debunks the medico-legal myth of degenerative and pre-existing conditions. It challenges denial of work-related injury compensation based on age or gender, factors which have no legitimacy in a no-fault system based on the Meredith Principles.
In their presentation, the OWA authors cite the following articles that explore issues of ageing, assessment and causation in New Zealand’s compensation system:
- “What does degeneration mean? The use and abuse of an ambiguous word.” / R. Wigley et al. New Zealand medical journal (v. 124, no. 1335) 27 May 2011. p. 73-79
- “ACC and back injuries: the relevance of pre-existing asymptomatic conditions revisited.” / P.A. Robertson & O.R. Nicholson. New Zealand medical journal (v. 214, no. 1335) 27 May 2011. pp. 65-72
New Zealand’s experience is telling … “The ACC files: Degeneration used as easy way out, says judge” (NZ Herald, Dec. 14, 2010). An outcry over the Accident Compensation Corporation’s “flimsy refusals” of claims because of so-called degeneration, led to an internal review in 2011, with the ACC admitting it had been rejecting too many claims for treatment since introducing a tough cost-saving approach in 2008.
If little has changed in practice since, a leaked internal document prepared for the ACC’s former chief executive, offers an explanation. The report links claims approaches to political cycles. “Depending on what ministers demand, savings or popularity, ACC will adjust its policies to deliver…” (“Your ACC claim: it’s govt policy” – Stuff.co.nz Jan. 19, 2014)