“WSIB’s ‘devastating’ compensation policy all about board’s bottom line, lawyers charge: Some injured workers have had benefits cut by half since pre-existing conditions policy came into effect” / Ashley Burke (CBC News Ottawa, October 27, 2016)
Advocates point to the larger systemic problem behind the WSIB’s treatment of injured workers such as paramedic Dan O’Connor, with pre-existing medical conditions being routinely used as an excuse to slash compensation benefits. They charge this is part of a cost reduction strategy to meet the Board’s own financial demands, one that has enabled the Board to dramatically reduce its unfunded liability ahead of schedule but at whose expense? Ron Ellis, former chair of the workers’ compensation Appeals Tribunal, points out that not only are some of the most vulnerable people in society being victimized by a corporate structure, but major changes have been made to benefit entitlement without legislative review.
Also questioned is the role of consultant Christopher Brigham. Hired by the Board in 2012 to help staff rate the severity of permanent injuries and “maximize the efficiency of the process”, his report recommended the Board consider any degenerative and pre-existing conditions workers might have when determining compensation. Lawyers representing injured workers point to changed practices and undermining of the long-accepted thin-skull rule even before the new benefit policies went into effect November 2014.
In response, the WSIB says the introduction of the pre-existing policy followed public consultation led by Jim Thomas and that it was, at the time, the only workers’ compensation board in the country without such a policy.* While the WSIB’s practices in applying “with rigour” the pre-existing conditions policy are having devastating consequences for individuals seriously injured, they also erode the province’s workers’ compensation system. Unfortunately, as Ron Ellis says, it is an issue that draws little public sympathy until the injured worker is their father, wife or daughter…
*Currently Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia do not have specific policies, instead consider claims with a pre-existing condition through their existing policies and legislation. Nova Scotia has a policy consultation underway on pre-existing conditions, due to report in 2017.
- Injured Workers’ Consultants. 2014 Nov. Backgrounder: New WSIB Benefits Policies. Toronto: IWC.