Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fair Practices Commission

If you're having problems with the WSIB then you should consider filing a complaint with the Fair Practices Commission. The Fair Practices Commission is the organizational ombudsman for the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. They investigate complaints about the service you are receiving from the WSIB. It could be an issue concerning the length of time it is taking to issue a cheque or a decision, the attitude of a Board employee or a decision making process.

The Commission also tracks complaint trends, identifies systemic issues and recommends improvements to the WSIB. It's another voice for the stakeholders on major systemic problems with the WSIB system.

Filing a complaint with the Commission can be effective. If you're having difficulties with the WSIB look into the Fair Practices Commission you may be pleasantly surprised at the results you get from the WSIB.

Friday, May 25, 2007

WSIB and Heart Attacks

There is a presumption under the Board policy that if an accident occurs at work it occurs in the course of employment. This holds true for heart attacks. Even though certain risks factors may exist such as high blood pressure, being overweight or smoking, if an individual does not have any preexisting heart conditions the Board is to examine the circumstances surrounding the heart attack. A worker that was engaged in any type of overexertion at the time of the heart attack or death should be granted benefits despite the preexisting risk factors. If the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) fails to grant benefits this issue is certain worth a review and appeal to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Tribunal (WSIAT). See tribunal cases 851/91, 339/87, 244/87.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Separation and Divorce - The Impact on WSIB benefits

The question of whether WSIB benefits, a pension and supplementary benefits (now replaced by NEL and LOE benefits) should form part of net family property in an equalization on separation or divorce was reviewed by the Court of Appeal in the case Lowe v. Lowe. The Court determined that WSIB payments should not be included in the calculation since they are exempted from the definition of property. Damages or a right to damages for personal injuries, nervous shock, mental distress or loss of guidance, care and companionship, or the part of a settlement that represents those damages are exempt under the Family Law Act. It is clear that a pension or NEL award would fall within the exemption. It is an award to compensate for the pain and suffering and physicial or mental injury.

In determining whether the monthly benefit is to be included the Court looked at the case of Brice v. Brice. The case stated "It seems to me preferable from the perspective of clarity and predictability to treat all disability benefits the same whether they are calculated strictly in terms of lost income or as compensation for impairment to earning capacity. However, as I have already indicated, disability payments that form part and parcel of an employee pension benefit plan may be on a different footing. In the end, the central point is that disability benefits represent income replacement and, from the perspective of family property and spousal support, are more appropriately treated on the same basis as income for employment."

As a result the Court of Appeal determined that WSIB benefits were not part of the calculation for net family property.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

WSIB Report Card

I was reviewing some information for a case, when I came across a letter send by then Interim WSIB Chair Jill Hutchenson to the Minister of Labour dated September 30, 2005. The letter made a number of recommendations for further improvements to the system both legislative and policy in the following areas:

1. Return to Work

2. Labour Market Re-entry

3. Deeming of Loss of Earnings Benefits

4. Faster Decision Making

5. Independence for Workers

6. Simplification of Process

Let's see how they have done.

1. Return to Work

Implementation was Scheduled originally for early 2006 we are still waiting for the new policies and I don't expect to see anything soon. Last information update estimated one more year. Grade: Fail

2. Labour Market Re-entry

The LMR plan was to be coordintated with the Return ot Work policies but nothing has been done to make any improvements to the basic need to have meaningful plans that are matched to real jobs that are available. I have seen too many plans that are doomed to fail from the start. Plans need to be realistic given the workers age, academic abilities, all physical and psychological restrictions, both compensable and non compensable. The plan must provide skills that are transferrable and matched to a job that exists in the worker's market area. There is no point in paying thousands for a private college program when the job market demands a University degree to be even considered for a position. The Board needs to stop promising change and act now. Grade: Fail

3. Deeming of Loss of Earnings Benefits

Changes were announce in the recent provincial budget. Hopefully the act gets passed soon. Grade: Provisional Pass

4. Faster Decision Making

After a summer of changing adjudicators and restructuring I have yet to see the faster decision making process. In fact things seem to be slower. Phone calls are still not being returned and implementation of appeal decisions and issuance of cheques is more often a new saga. Promises are fruitless time to see some results. Grade: Fail

5. Independence for workers

While changes have been proposed to provide a 2 1/2% increase to workers this will not create financial independence for these workers. Too little too late. The system must keep up with the cost of living. The de-indexation of benefits in 1985 caused a serious inequity that still has not been corrected. Grade: Fail

6. Simplification of Process

Forms have been redesigned including the Form 7, 8 and the Functional Abilities Form. Now the question which remains is whether the forms work and provide sufficient information to streamline the process. Grade: Pass

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New Return to Work Policies

Well the second round of consultations is done but the end is nowhere near. We were all hoping to see a final draft of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board's final return to work policies sometime this summer. This will not be happening. The best estimate is about a year. they need time to review the submissions, evaluate the pilot projects and make further changes. So what's the next step? If I were a betting person I would have to a say a third draft?
Keep you posted.