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ACC Repeatedly Cuts Compensation For Disabled Boy

BIG NEWS INVESTIGATES ACC

ACC Repeatedly Cuts Compensation For Severely Disabled Boy


by Dave Crampton

The severely disabled Christchurch boy who was mauled by a dog as a baby, only to have compensation stopped last month, has had an uphill battle with ACC since his 1993 injury. His case has been to review several times. Most applications for assistance have been turned down, only to have been restored at review. Now the family is going to another ACC review with Disputes Resolution Services as ACC has not implemented review decisions and provided entitlements. The case is subject to a ministerial review.

Late last year paediatric specialists at Christchurch hospital did a turn about face and said that the boy’s epileptic seizures and behavioural problems are no longer as a result of an accident.

Ryan Becker, 11, was attacked by a german shepherd rottweiler on December 6 1993 and his head was bashed against the floor and walls of a hallway. The accident was witnessed by Ryan’s elder sister, Stacey, 14, who is still traumatised by the event.

Although Ryan’s claim was initially accepted by ACC, the associated epilepsy attacks, behavioural problems and learning impairment were deemed outside ACC’s responsibility. Ryan’s parents, Angela and John, went to review in 1997 – it took five years to get a hearing - and won, as there was deemed a causal link between the epilepsy and the dog attack. Not any more, apparently. Ryan gets cut from ACC on January 31 and the family has hired a lawyer.

Ryan’s ACC case manager issued her decision on January 3 after receiving a report from a paediatric specialist Dr Russell Austin at Christchurch Hospital. Dr Austin said Ryan’s traumatic brain injury - or as the report says, “epilepsy syndrome” - was unrelated to the 1993 attack. In August last year, Dr Austin was removed from Ryan’s medical team for doing inappropriate medical reports – yet ACC saw fit to rely on him for a medical assessment rather than going to a more appropriate specialist such as a neurologist, specialising in brain disorders.

ACC requested the latest report to get an up to date prognosis, to ascertain whether or not Ryan had epilepsy and to see if he could modify his behaviour. If successful, this would lead to reduced entitlements. However, as Mrs Becker says, “How can you modify behaviour if you have a serious head injury?”

Ryan’s GP, Dr Leigh Hooper, is furious with the ACC as nobody in the corporation will listen to her or take note of her reports. Ryan’s rehabilitation plan is out of date and the assessments were not on that plan as required by legislation.

The Beckers have been struggling with ACC from day one and had to fight for almost every requested entitlement. Most entitlements were granted only after going to an ACC review hearing as the original application was declined. Five reviews never made it to a hearing due to the paper work going missing. The review decisions – over a two year period - were therefore deemed in Ryan’s favour, but the Beckers are still waiting for some entitlements to be granted and are going to review again to have the decisions honoured.

In 1999 the family applied for a wheelchair – declined. Went to review in 2000 – won. Yet it took ACC two years to provide the wheelchair but the corporation did not provide wheelchair ramps. The Beckers applied for a five point harness car seat in 1995, and although that was accepted straight away and they actually got the car seat, they were also granted a vehicle with wheelchair hoist and modifications. They are still waiting for that.

ACC provided 24 hour care when Ryan made his frequent trips to hospital, yet when he returned home ACC would not provide adequate assistance as ACC said that was primarily the parents responsibility, Mrs Becker says. Ryan’s attendant care was assessed and reduced last year, but his teacher aid was increased. Now that his compensation has been cut, Mrs Becker is not sure whether Ryan will be attending his special needs school this year. He is unable to attend a mainstream school.

As the result of the medication for his daily epileptic seizures, Ryan was diagnosed with liver problems. In 1999 ACC granted a liver scan. Ryan still hasn’t been scanned.

Mrs Becker says she has lost a child to Ryan’s injury. In 1996 when pregnant, Ryan kicked his mother in the stomach due to his disorder. One of the twins Mrs Becker was carrying was lost seven weeks before the due date. Had Ryan been properly cared for by ACC, that would not have happened and Mrs Becker says ACC legislation needs to be changed to gear up for severely disabled children.

The Beckers are going to review on February 28 to address attendant care, training and equipment, childcare for claimant siblings, level of attendant care, personal support entitlements. They are also reviewing decisions granting a vehicle purchase with wheelchair hoists and modifications that have not been received.

A date has not yet been set for the review of the January declinature letter. ACC has flown down legal assistance from ACC’s head office to fight the case.

Mrs Becker says she has not spoken to Ryan’s case manager nor the Christchurch branch manager Lois McKay since January 3, but says Ms McKay refuses to comment on the case and is well aware of both the extent and the cause of Ryan’s disability.

“She knows the truth.”

ENDS

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