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My reply from the Victorian Workcover Authority

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I thought it best to start another post rather than comment below my original post, Formal Complaint to WorkSafe. This really deserves some space and attention. I don’t think I need to say too much other than to explain the image is a copy of the letter I received from the Victorian Workcover Authority accompanied with my reply.

WorkSafe Reply To Soula Pg1WorkSafe Reply To Soula Pg2You can all make what you will of this exchange between me, the injured worker, and the system setup to provide ‘quality income protection’.

Dear Andrew.

Thank you for the belated response to my official complaint. I trust you will not mind if I respond and in so doing make some terse comments about the way in which your organisation has behaved towards me.

  • An injured worker should not have to be disadvantaged (such as held up payments) when a WorkSafe Agent employee is on leave. Your failure to address this complaint means that you do not see it as being an issue of importance. Am I reading you correctly?
  • I don’t appreciate having a valid point and being excluded from the Facebook page or having my posts deleted. Obviously WorkCover does not want to be seen in a bad light, giving the illusion that all injured workers are happy with the way they have been treated in your system.
  • I have asked 6 times where it is stated in the regulations that my WorkSafe Agent (enter WorkSafe Agent name) have 60 days to make a decision after a Medical Panels opinion has been delivered and have still not received an answer. In response you say: ‘These are matters that are outside of (worksafe agent’s name) control’, and ‘it has attributed to both the absence of a staff member and also the receipt of additional information about your capacity subsequent to the return of the Medical Panel opinion’ In fact the member was absent well after the 60 days following receipt of the Medical Panel’s opinion.
  • And the comment that follows constitutes a ‘catch all’ answer: ‘case officers generally have a good understanding of the Act and are able to respond to a broad range of enquiries. I am advised that the information required to respond to your enquiry was contained within the Administrative Law Act 1978.’  Can you please be more specific in order that I can understand your response?
  • I have asked about the surveillance evidence that was provided to the Medical Panel ‘for completeness’. I had previously requested all my surveillance material and was allegedly provided with ‘all of it’. I want to know where the additional information provided to the Panels came from and why it was not provided to me when I asked? The additional information was not provided to me and, as I have specified in previous emails, it relates to details of my travel to Italy posted on my Facebook art page. This information was never provided to me. Nor does it seem necessary for me to have to ask AGAIN for this information.
  • In sum, these responses make it absolutely clear to me just where Victorian Workcover Authority’s priorities lie – they are designed to avoid being seen to take any responsibility for the welfare of compensation claimants and their employers, whatever the cost may be to one or both of them.

And I want to express the following thoughts which are specific to the points I made in my original complaint:

  • From my experience, WorkSafe has no idea how to support an injured worker who is attempting to return to work. Your demonstrated inaction proves my point.
  • my efforts to return to work should not be abused but rather encouraged. You have perhaps ignored my complaint because it is demonstrably true.
  • I should not have to endure $0 weekly assistance for 13 months (and still running) when I’m returning to work, not even when my hours are at 9 hours per week (and fall under the minimum requirement). This makes it all the more difficult to attempt return to work. This is the most serious of my complaints and raises the question whether you and your Agent have been less than honest in your dealings with me and my employer.
  • I have been using social media because writing to WorkSafe directly has been a huge failure from past experience and I expect that this latest attempt will also fall upon deaf ears. You seem unconcerned that the reputation of your organisation and that of your agent have been severely tarnished in the public arena.
  • WorkSafe needs to take more responsibility for the WorkSafe Agents it employs, ostensibly to ‘help’ injured workers with their claims. The inordinate delay in responding to my complaints reflects badly upon your organisation.
  • WorkSafe is failing in its attempts to help injured workers find evidence-informed treatments, to help them recover and return to work Again this is a serious criticism that is deserving of the urgent attention of your organisation.
  • Your past responses to my letters of ‘noting my advocacy’ has made not the slightest difference to these governance issues. These issues that should have been addressed at a high level within your organisation have been studiously ignored.

To summarise:

I have received no help, understanding or acknowledgement of my frustrations as a result of being left without compensation during this unnecessarily lengthy and obstructive bureaucratic process.

You make no mention of a possible resolution to the dispute which is before Conciliation, no mention of your Agent actually assisting me in my return to work, and you have given no thought to the financial plight of this worker.

Instead you have concocted two pages of non-answers that seem to condone the total lack of support for the injured worker (me) by your Agent, and demonstrates a continued unwillingness of your organisation  to tackle the real and important issues that I have raised.

I trust that this latest post proves sufficient to publicly demonstrate the appalling level of service and lack of empathy that the Victorian WorkCover Authority provides in return for the workers’ compensation premiums we pay in Victoria.

Feedback

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  • John Quintner

    Soula, I guess your only choice is to appeal to the Ombudsman for assistance, given the unlikely possibility that WorkSafe is genuinely capable of delivering an impartial review of its own decision. Meanwhile, the disgusting behaviour of your WorkSafe-appointed agent goes on unchecked. They make the laughable claims that “By providing the right service at the right time, … gives injured workers the confidence that they are being well cared for” and “Our total service helps effectively manage claims, support injured workers and assist their return to work.”

    • soula

      Thankfully, The Ombudsman’s service is much more professional and I have had a call which I will follow up on Monday. At least there is some documentation now that I’m hoping will be reported about the system. I still, after 1 year of submitting my application for part payments, have not learned why the Agent had 70 days to respond to the Panel’s opinion, why there is a different legislation that allows the Agent to call an application ‘finalised’, (therefore liable to pay from the date the tax returns are submitted) when the ATO allows almost a year for this process, and why extra surveillance that was submitted to the Panels was never included in my documentation when I asked for this many months before.
      The VWA statements are nothing but a joke. There is no service, they are never on time, they give no confidence, no one is being cared for, their ‘effectiveness’ is counted in profits that are taken from the injured worker, and there has been no RTW assistance from what I’ve experienced.

      • John Quintner

        Perhaps WorkSafe needs to be reminded that “good governance” (processes for making and implementing decisions) in an organization is characterized by it being accountable, transparent, following the rule of law, responsive, equitable and inclusive, effective and efficient, and participatory.

        • soula

          Let’s hope the Ombudsman can do that much John. Certainly was a great phone call and I was astounded to hear this, ‘Soula I will contact you by the end of the week regardless’!!!!! My goodness, communication!

  • Soula

    Just to update all followers of this post, I followed up on my reply to the VWA and this was their response on Friday which clearly let’s us all know the VWA simply doesn’t care:

    Dear Ms Manatalvanos

    Thank you for your email. Your email dated 16 June 2014 has been noted.

    As advised if you are not satisfied with the response to your complaint from the VWA dated 12 June 2014 the following options are available:

    1. Internal WorkSafe Review
    You may request in writing within 28 days of the date of the letter to have the matter referred for review by an officer at WorkSafe. Relevant documentation such as this outcome letter will be reviewed by an officer who was not involved in the original investigation. You may provide any additional information you think is appropriate.

    2. Ombudsman Victoria
    You can make an online complaint at http://www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au or you can telephone the Ombudsman’s office on (03) 9613 6222 or toll free on 1800 806 314 (regional only).

    • John Quintner

      Soula, you have gone well beyond the call of duty in your untiring efforts to improve the administration of a complex system that is presenting itself to the community as being empathic etc. whereas in reality, as you have shown, this appearance is mere window dressing. The buck stops with the CEO of the Victorian WorkCover Authority, who would do well to invite you around for a coffee and a chat. Who knows, she might give you some honest answers to your probing questions and comments?

      • Soula

        Thanks again for the support John. I just sent Denise a LinkedIN connection request. Let’s see if she’s happy to hear from an injured worker. I’d love to have a chat about the system that is clearly expired and screaming for an update.

        • John Quintner

          Soula, in the unlikely event that the meeting takes place, you might ask the CEO why your nomination for an award for Excellence in Return to Work does not appear to have been accepted. Perhaps the fact that only one name currently appears on the acceptance list might be a pretty good indication that the VRA’s principal focus lies elsewhere. At any rate, the time frame for nominations has been extended by a week, so there still could be an avalanche of nominations.

          • John Quintner

            Apology to VWA. There has been an IT problem that has left nominations in draft form and not actually being submitted. They now have received all the relevant information in a Word document. Let’s hope Soula wins the award.

  • Mary Kate Manning

    Whoa, what a head scratcher! Why don’t you try contacting the CEO directly, also contact your lawyer, and publicize your issues more on social media.

    Keep us updated, because that is legit interesting. And I hope you’ll be able to get back on your feet!

  • John Quintner

    Why not send an invoice to WorkCover’s CEO, with a copy to the Chairman of the Board, for the invaluable public relations work that you have performed on its behalf? You might even get paid!

  • John Quintner

    Soula, you may need to re-title Act III along the lines of Samuel Beckett’s play – “Waiting for Godot” becomes “Waiting for WorkCover”. As you know, in Beckett’s play Godot never turns up. The analogy with WorkCover’s behaviour is inescapable.

    The bottom line, as I see it, is that an injured Victorian worker should NEVER EVER declare having a work capacity. As you have shown to your many followers, to do so invites even more discrimination from the Victorian WorkCover Authority and its agents.

    But at least you should be grateful to them for providing you with the ultimate incentive to return to work – withholding your compensation payments and then watching you and your employer struggle to stay in business.

    • Soula

      You’ve so hit it on the head John. And you know since both Theo and I have been left nothing to lose, we may as well use the experience to show the true colours of this system and it’s discriminatory, intimidating processes. To still be in the process of conciliation 1 year after my application (not to mention the extra 6 months when I fell below the threshold that prevents an injured worker from even applying for part payments), is something no injured worker should have to experience. Just like Beckett’s writing, I’ll keep documenting this waiting game. Perhaps this is why I’m living this nightmare, I have the means to communicate and publicise it.

      And no, I would never encourage anyone to declare a work capacity until they know they can get back to full time work. This system does not help with return to work, it doesn’t encourage return to work, it does not want anyone to attempt return to work, it’s not even a consideration.

      It’s sad… I believe there’s something many injured workers can do even with serious injuries but this system is not interested in investing in these people. Rather they invest in loopholes and vile insurer antics to pull the rug (and life) out of injured workers.

      • Brenda

        Unbelievable that WorkSafe is still not manning up to their responsibility Soula dear! It’s clear they think they can ‘out last’ you!!! The extreme dancing they make one do is absolutely government intimidation! Personally, I have put ‘the hex’ on a few medical personnel since suffering PNl!!! This whole PN debate still rears it’s ugly head and not being properly addressed by the ‘scientists’! Maybe that is what is wrong with WorkSafe too? xo

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