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Performance ‘fit for modified duties’

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Did you all hear I’m back at work part time? Much thanks to our flexible home/office setup and Theo’s immense help. Regardless, how lucky am I hey? But oops, hang on, I have to correct myself. It’s not lucky for me, it’s lucky for the WorkSafe Agent. And I must clarify because from their point of view I didn’t get myself back to work, it had nothing to do with my research, the practitioners I found, their treatment and great therapies (or my hip pocket!). Nope, nothing to do with nerve blocks and medication, but rather, my high activity levels. Yeeees, I have been a full time artist and I’ve been caught red-handed!!!

Excited as I was to finally be seen as ‘fit for modified duties’, I was looking forward to receiving the WorkSafe Agent’s promised ‘dispatch’ mail. I expected to see copies of my new job description, Doctor’s capacity report and a letter explaining I would no longer be entitled to weekly benefits. What also came though, was a ruthless bundle of papers including video and photographic surveillance from February this year, that although amounted to a bunch of thin air, somehow became the reason I was ‘fit for modified duties’. I knew where this was going…

The investigation part of Insurance is never seen in WorkSafe’s campaigns, nor is the reality of the WorkCover system, ie., the frustration, anxiety, reference to useless unethical appointments, sneaky and undermining activity, out-of-date assessment guidelines etc, etc. But it definitely happens and it’s all nothing but intimidating tactics for the sake of producing false and misguided information that will in turn be used as ‘evidence’ for the Insurer to escape their liability of paying benefits (thus gaining a huge profit for our Government I imagine).

Well I’m sick of this crap! And this time, the story isn’t going to end with me feeling anxious and swallowing those bits of paper, while the Investigators excuse themselves gutlessly with a letter marked ‘Private and Confidential’ that they send to the WorkSafe Agent. It’s going to end here, on my blog. And I’m even going to have some fun while I’m at it!

I want to expose the investigator’s pathetic behaviour and poor writing skills, their ways of documenting information incompletely, plucking tiny details out of context, ignoring relevant details but focusing on irrelevant ones etc etc. I want to expose this disgusting occupation and instead of being intimidated by these WorkCover methods and hiding the surveillance, reveal it. I won’t be intimidated and threatened, I won’t be giving up as I’ve done nothing wrong. I want to do this for others being investigated, to offer courage and support so they don’t collapse under the pressure but rather see that this is rubbish and dispute it.

I’d like to invite any honest investigators to speak up and comment about their experiences with writing these reports for WorkCover insurers. And you can do this anonymously.

And if you’re a shonky investigator, desperate enough to screw honest people for income and you want to defend your actions, don’t bother! Your comments will be deleted. As I said, this time the story ends with me.

Please also note I’ve never stated to any practitioner that I can’t walk, in fact I state the opposite that I always try. I’ve never stated I don’t go out but rather state I attempt to go out and stay connected with the community. I never indicated I have a limp or a visible impairment. I have never reported a neck problem (!!!).

Soula, Theo & Zephyr surveillance

Here are my favorite bits of surveillance with my added comments:

Observations continued at 3:30pm on Saturday 25th February, 2012. Unfortunately Ms Mantalvanos was not sighted leaving the unit complex on this occasion and our operative terminated observations at 7:30pm.

(‘unfortunately’ I was not sighted…? ‘unfortunately’ I wasn’t active? I wasn’t ‘caught’? What does this mean, was the investigator spewing he missed out on some ‘action’?).

During this period of observations approximately 18 minutes and 41 seconds video footage was exposed. Ms Mantalvanos’ activities included taking her dog for a walk, accompanied by her partner; collecting a coffee from a cafe and then walking back home again; sitting at a cafe talking to an older couple and her boyfriend; eating a meal and laughing whilst conversing with her companions; hugging a female…

Based on our recent observations we have found Ms Mantalvanos to be a moderately active person who appears to walk her dog and attend nearby cafe’s on a regular basis. On one occasion Ms Mantalvanos met up with a couple in their 50’s and her partner at a cafe in Collingwood, and during that tine she appeared to be in good spirits and demonstrated a free range of movement, however she was not seen to engage in any strenuous or physical activities. Ms Mantalvanos does not appear to drive a motor vehicle.

(Since when is the term ‘regular basis’ used for something observed ‘twice’ and for approx ’18 minutes and 41 seconds’? And walking my dog twice is ‘moderate activity’? After my experience with pain, I have learned that no one can judge anyone’s pain or activity level, in fact the person in pain has varying pain level days. ‘Good spirits’ and ‘free range of movement’? Yes, I was certainly happy to be out that one morning, Theo and I used to have breakfast at our local cafe EVERY DAY. And my ‘free range of movement’… again it’s a neither here-nor-there comment but I like it, makes me sound like I’m able to do cartwheels or dance or both!)

(This is my favorite of all the rubbish, just priceless…)

Google – Ms. Matelvanos‘ website for her business ‘Origin of Image’
www.ooi.com.au
www.soula.com.au
twitter: @soulamantas
Facebook: Soula Mantalvanos

Many references to Ms. Mantalvanos and her work are found via google search.

We believe Ms. Mantalvanos continues to work within her own business as an Artist.

(Please everyone, entertain me and google my name… even google it ‘matelvanos’! Google will correct you and search ‘mantalvanos’ and the last link that comes up on the first page is: ‘Workcover | Soula mantalvanos’ and provides a link to this website. So, how accurate are these investigators, are they picking and choosing or are they simply hopeless at their job? If so, where are our WorkSafe premiums being spent, are they all a bunch of clowns and who is taking this information and actually reissuing it?)

February 24

The Worker departs premises on foot via… with male and small dog, walking directly to Cafe…
The Worker stands outside ‘cafe’ with dog while male enters premises. The Worker crouches behind vehicle then stands, male exits. The Worker then enters… The Worker exits premises with coffee and walks with male and small dog directly back to home premises.

10:am Agent ceases observations – no further movement

(Not possible that I couldn’t sit down that day is it? God forbid the investigator thinks from my perspective and documents something that remotely suggests I may actually have an issue, or that they may have some brain cells.)

February 25

3:15pm Agent commenced assignment

7:30pm Agent ceases observations – no movement

March 10th

9:10am Our operator has now conducted a walk past of the cafe and observed the Worker as she sat at a table…

9:20pm Our operator has now moved into position to view the Worker as she sat and conversed with her friends. Over the following 40 minutes the Worker remained seated as she conversed with her friends and when doing so she displayed a free range of movement as she turned her head and neck and she also displayed a relaxed happy demeanour and she laughed and smiled with her friends. (Video)

9:59am …Her boyfriend who has now joined her then opened the rear door of the vehicle and he then placed the Worker’s dog into the back seat of the car…

10:00am The Worker who briefly placed her hand onto her lower back and her boyfriend walked a short distance along Gertrude St before entering a book shop and they are now from our view. (Video)

10:30am The Worker and her boyfriend have now driven into secure parking with in the file address and they are now from view.

11:55am … A walk past the file address… no outdoor activity could be seen

1:45pm … A further walk past the file address… and again we could not observe any movement

2:45pm …no further outdoor activity… our operator terminated surveillance and returned to base

(‘conducted a walk past of the cafe and observed the Worker’, and saw what? Pain? They can ‘observe’ pain? All this is doing is identifying me, nothing else. And now for the really serious documentation, ’40 minutes’ and serious descriptions that outline simply, ‘I was able to get out that day for breakfast’, let’s not even add whether I had treatment or not. Here’s some news investigators; people in pain can and will get out. Some weeks it’s often, some it’s zilch.)

There was a bit more hogwash and I did receive more photocopies of photographs and stills of the video… I had to include the ones of my dog and ‘boyfriend’! This narrow-minded activity amounted to not even an hour but was, apparently, enough to label someone ‘fit for modified duties’ along with my other documentation.

I wrote to the case manager that sent me the ‘dispatch’ mail:

hi G,
i’m just writing to say how devastated and upset i am by the package you ‘sincerely’ sent me today.
Nothing sincere about it, quite brutal actually and way below the belt, typical of the poor ‘regulations make us do this’ excuse. Now I realise you didn’t in fact send me all the surveillance I asked for, it’s actually quite a shock to see that I’ve been photographed and videod, and so have my friends and ‘boyfriend’.
We could have just left it at ‘here’s the capacity report and the IME’s that say you’re fit’.
I guess ‘WorkSafe Agent name’ don’t care. A bit silly of me to be expecting an insurer to treat me as a human.
Lucky for me to be having a nerve block tomorrow. Mostly lucky for me to finally have treatment that allows me to think of nicer things in my life and attempt to forget this putrid mail.
Honestly G, I don’t know how you do this…

I was thanked for my email and informed my ‘concerns have been noted and put on file’. You can imagine I’m expecting someone to get back to me in that regard, any day now!

And I didn’t stop there, I also asked about part payments in the event I don’t get back to full-time work. I am entitled. I was not informed this may be a possibility. I received the application form. I will apply.

Conclusion

I am back at work due to my perseverance, great support and appropriate treatment, none of which includes a WorkCover Medical practitioner or examiner, and of which I paid for. My home/office setup is incredibly convenient and so is the new bidet. Sadly, I am not a full time artist but do hope to get there. I am better with nerve blocks about 5 months a year but Theo still has to help me ALL DAY and my capacity is still very limited. The remaining months the blocks wear off and I’m extremely limited. During this time I rest enormous amounts of time to be able to get out 1-2 nights a week and manage a few walks. At all times my pain is invisible.

Feedback

19
  • Lisa

    Hi, Soula. I just found this website and read this, and I am so disgusted and sad. Surveillance on someone with an invisible injury is ridiculous. As another pudendal nerve pain sufferer, I can completely relate to how you must have felt when you saw this. My bottom and pelvic floor burns for a good part of the day, especially when sitting. But I also can’t stand in place for long at all (due to feet injuries and myofascial pain syndrome and other issues), and I can only lay down in one position, which is difficult to do for a long time. So I am continually suffering. And yet, if an investigator saw me out talking to someone, I wouldn’t be holding my crotch and moaning and crying, because I would probably be sent to jail for inappropriate behavior, and the person to whom I was speaking would think I was crazy and stop talking to me. Nope…we are expected to always have a smile on our faces when talking to other people and refrain from any action that would show we were in pain. If I ever even mention I have pain to someone, they try to get the hell away ASAP. They don’t want “negativity or toxic people in [their] world.” The investigator would also see me walk because I would not be able to sit down in a wheelchair – I would hurt too bad. One time, a homeland security agent would not let me in the disabled line at airport security because I “wasn’t in a wheelchair.” I couldn’t believe how ignorant this jerk was. Believe me, I wish I could sit in a wheelchair and that that would take care of my health problems.

    Anyway, I know this post is old, and I hope you finally got the benefits you deserve. I will try to read some of your more recent blog posts tomorrow.

    Hugs,
    Lisa

    • Soula

      Dear Lisa,
      No, my issues are not resolved, far from it. In the end I had to give up to protect what ability and health I have and forfeit the compensation this country claims to offer injured workers if they have a workplace accident. To add to that, I’ve had to sell my home and uproot myself and my husband to a new country town in search of a way to make a living. It’s all on the line. From the outside, it looks like another creative venture. We do consider ourselves lucky to be so resourceful and be able to have the means to communicate and work together so I can do some kind of work. Otherwise, my husband goes out to work and I struggle through the day. There’s no way of telling this from the outside. In fact when I lost my battle for compensation, I was told it was due to me having more capacity that what I indicated and what the Medical Panel agreed to. When I asked for return to work guidance and help to participate in an Art Therapy course, the insurer suddenly thought I wouldn’t have the capacity for it. So no compensation and no RTW help either. As for treatment, I’m on my own with that too as my implant, that saved my life and restored some quality of life, could not be seen as ‘helping my psychological condition’.
      Our country has alot to answer for… firstly, why won’t it help injured workers and people with invisible pain, so they can get back to work? it makes no sense to me…
      You know it too well and that’s awful to read. I hear you about the wheelchair, I can’t sit in one either and yet everyone would so clearly get it if we could sit in it. Strange that no one ever notices my flat shoes, the fact I never have a hand bag, I don’t drive, I don’t carry anything over a couple of kilos, I don’t do shopping, etc…

      Hugs back to you my kindred spirit. What a way to be connected!
      Soula

  • Meow

    H Soula,

    As someone who has chronic pain in her upper body I understand your frustration. There are the odd days when I can, and do p, do something for myself, like planting my tomatoes. If someone was observing me put tomatoes into the soil they could think I was fine, but meanwhile my housemate has to dog the garden up and put stuff in the soil and I, using my hands to plant the tomatoes because I cannot hold a small spade even. Similar with many other days, I go out, I laugh with my farmers, I do things as best I can, but then I might pay for it for days afterwards. Yes, I might cook a meal, which takes me 5 hours to do because I cannot hold a knife for longer than a few minutes, yet I do it, and why? Because otherwise I would kill myself. Because otherwise I would be told that I am not cooperating with my therapist who tells me to go out and see people and do things as best as I can in order to distract myself from the pain. Stuff the lot of them. They do not live my life, they do not feel my pain or sit up nights because bedclothes touching them feels like being scalded with hot water. I do. We see you have a boyfriend. No, that’s my housemate. But you kiss him in this photo. So what? He’s a friend-with-benefits, or I felt like kissing him that day, or maybe it’s our culture to kiss each other hello, what the hell is it to do with you? Yup, this they do. And in the end we are just a number to them, a $ sign.

    • Soula Mantalvanos

      You put it so well Meow, it’s putrid. Judged or should I say inspected for a poor excuse to use against us when we should be praised and encouraged. But as many of us state, the system is backwards, outdated, primitive and certainly not setup to help injured workers. Once you become a long term Number, the aim seems to be to treat you poorly so you ‘give up’ your entitlements. Disgusting…

      Sending you strength and well wishes. thanks for commenting.

  • Harjan Investigation

    Hi Soula thank you for inviting me to comment on your site, with each investigation a surveillance agent must conduct him or herself in a professional manner at all times and view the claimant’s activities without bias, prejudice or opinions. The agent must only report what he/she observes in the time allocated by means of observations and video as well document the claimant’s activities..

    • Soula Mantalvanos

      Do you think this system works Harjan? Seems to me this sort of reporting is neither here nor there in when it comes to proving anything. (sorry I only received notice of your message now!)

  • soula

    Welcome to the Investigators Australia Forum! Don’t be shy, say ‘hello’ and let us know why you’re here. If you’re the investigator that conducted the above investigation, congratulations!!!! You are the only person (in the world I’d say) who can see Peripheral pain and thought you could document it for the low life system you work for. I’d move on if I were you, you can make alot more money if you can see this kind of pain whilst sitting in a car. Patients will pay you anything so they can find their issue…

  • Scotsmart

    Your not alone in the UK we are loosing social housing mobility cars and vital benefits by an equally barbaric unjust system

  • soula

    I’ve just posted to WorkSafe’s FB page. Let’s make some noise… nicely of course: https://www.facebook.com/worksafevictoria

  • workcovervictim

    THANK YOU, Soula, for having the guts and the courage to expose the scam, the sham and the thousands of dollars spent by WorkSafe Vic and the workcover insurer on so called “surveillance“…!
    Again, this would be hilarious if it were not, in fact, a true version of reality!

    We took the liberty to publish your story on our site as well and ask all to check out the transcripts of the “professional surveillance” and pleeeez judge for yourself. Make sure you repeatedly note how “freely” Soula’s neck movements are – considering that her injury is below the belt! For God’s sake…here’s crying out loud!
    http://aworkcovervictimsdiary.com/2012/11/worckover-vic-surveillance-performance-what-a-joke/

    FACTS:

    WorkCover Victoria spends $14 million annually surveilling appoximately 6,000 injured workers
    In 2011, 8 people were caught ripping the system off

    Note, we recently featured Film maker, injured worker and alleged malingerer WorkCover surveillance footage… again an hilarious scam, if it were not the REALITY for so so many genuinely injured workers. Check it out: http://aworkcovervictimsdiary.com/2012/11/the-workcover-malingerer-caught-on-camera-facts-of-workcover-surveillance/

    • soula

      ThankYOU guys for your support. Thank you for adding to this and clarifying and offering more information. We have to speak up, this can’t go on. It’s not only a waste of money but useless. As injured workers we are encouraged to tell our Agents what we’re upto with our treatments. I did that, even though my agent was NOT paying for my treatment and what do they do? Send out the investigators TWICE after I have nerve blocks. And yet the whole time, as we ALL are, remaining focused on getting back to life. While these guys plan schemes and investigations rather than aiding us in our mission.
      LOVE YOU workcovervictim. You guys are THE best. xxxxx

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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…

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