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Big News: Docking The ACC Herd

Big News with Dave Crampton
Docking The ACC Herd

It is now common knowledge that a recent ACC report referred to long term ACC claimants - on the scheme for more than a year – as stock. Yes, a bunch of claimants is now called a herd.

What is not so well known is that more than twice as many claimants complained to the Ombudsman about ACC decisions this year than in 2000. The Ombudsman received more than 251 complaints to the year ending June, most complaining about having weekly compensation cut or failing to receive appropriate rehabilitation.

Many more lost review decisions, and were annoyed enough to go to appeal. You can see why when more then 70 percent of reviews and appeals are settled in ACC’s favour despite the Corporation undertaking inadequate social or vocational rehabilitation. It is anyone’s guess how many wanted to go to review or appeal, but decided it wasn’t worth the hassle.

ACC boss Gary Wilson has said at least half of the 14,000 stock – quite a large herd - should have recovered from their injuries within a year and many should be exited. Yet Wilson concedes that many of these claimants have not received the appropriate rehabilitation and that is one reason why they have not recovered enough to be fully fit – and why some have gone to the Ombudsman rather than forking out legal fees to go to review or appeal.

So rather than ensuring that both social and vocational rehabilitation is undertaken, ACC has decided that it is quicker, easier, and cost effective to aim to meet a target of exiting 1500 stock from the herd. It is prepared to do it by any means they can to satisfy targets mutually agreed between the Corporation and the Government.

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This is one of the reasons why Catalyst Injury Management was set up. A subsidiary of ACC, Catalyst employs case managers who make decisions on entitlements.

They also make decisions on exiting people from the scheme, and some decisions are not made in accordance with the ACC Act. Some people don’t even get decisions until some time after they have had compensation docked. Yep, the stock gets docked.

It is no wonder Catalyst is the subject of many of the complaints to the Ombudsman, and the formation of this subsidiary could well be a major reason for the increase in complaints. No other organisation is the subject of so many complaints to the Ombudsman.

Of the 271 ACC complaints resolved this year by the Ombudsman, all but 13 were not sustained, suggesting ACC is not doing its job the way it should be and claimants are not able to pierce the culture to communicate their concerns, let alone receive compensation they are entitled to.

Removing the stock is often done by getting a claimant assessed or by obtaining a biased medical report to get them off the scheme, even if there is a recent medical report on file allowing entitlement.

This makes a joke of ACC’s assertion that they have a transparent medical referral policy. They don’t, as all medical referrals should be independent of the Corporation, and must be seen to be so.

Yet some of the medical specialist used actually work part time for ACC but the claimant is never told this, Nor is it made clear why a report is requested, leaving the Corporation open for accusations of bias as case managers shop around for good medical deals.

Some case managers have been known to go back to medical practitioners requesting that they change a report. This has resulted in some medical practitioners blacklisting certain case managers.

Garry Wilson has said he was unaware of inappropriate action by case managers and suggested people contact him with any such cases. Yet he won’t return such calls as they are never passed on to him.

When attempting to speak with Wilson, his staff will say he’ll return the call and then an hour later you will get a call from the ACC complaints section. It seems that any concerning calls are diverted past Wilson to complaints, which may explain why Wilson is ignorant of claimant concerns.

Mind you, if you try to speak with a case manager in Wellington you’ll be put through to a call centre in Hamilton and as all the phones are on divert or engaged, you must leave a message.

That happened to me six times last week. Forget customer service, there isn’t any. Customer Service Centres were abolished a few years ago with most staff being made redundant, after many were on ACC with OOS (Occupational Overuse Syndrome), at a time when ACC was one of the most likely workplaces to suffer OOS – second only to Social Welfare.

But it is not OOS claimants have to worry about – its how long they will be on ACC before they are assessed and exited. If claimants have been on ACC for more than a year, they are a target in the stockyards.

If they are unaware of their rights, some will miss out on their correct rehabilitation and compensation through no fault of their own.


Tomorrow: How to ensure ACC alters incorrect decisions.

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