The Panel

Not long ago I was asked (sent) by Workcover (Worksafe, whatever) to front a medical panel in a sideways step of my claim to be recognized for having a Serious Injury from sexual assaults, stalking and investigations and cover ups in the course of my work.

Every once and a while there is a media grab about allegedly spurious claims Workcover have paid out. Not only are these offensive and deliberately sensationalist – they’re just bloody impossible in my experience. The suggestion that individuals would subject themselves to the intrusive, soul crushing experience of constant surveillance, psychiatric assessment and reporting is utterly ridiculous. There are percentages of every societal group which will always attempt to play the system. Always. Are the the ones emerging ‘victorious’ with six figure payouts?

I had the main perpetrator plea bargain out of jail time for his crimes. Sexual crimes.

I had detailed Police paperwork and findings.

I had emails, records, reports and diaries.

I had counselling, psychiatrists, psychologists, Victims of Crime involvement.

I was on medication.

I attended tri monthly psychiatric assessments and attended all appointments, tests and completed every form.

I told every truth (possibly my only mistake) when asked about my life and experiences.

I answered offensive questions about my parents, my childhood, my siblings, my personal and sexual history, my struggle to regain psychological health after these years of enforced difficulty.

I cried. I pleaded. I broke.

And now, almost six years to the day since this nightmare began, I have had a small ‘win’.

The Workcover laws were changed by a certain unscrupulous Premier when he was in State Government some time ago, making the threshold for access to compensation and any legal recourse almost unattainable. Physical injuries are measured from 1-100% and attributed a monetary value on a sliding scale. Psychological injuries are measured using a bit of a ‘secret formula’ according to and including your ability to shower daily and how often you’ve wished yourself dead. To ‘achieve’ a sufficient percentage, which the doctors must decide is permanent and unlikely to improve at all, you must ‘score’ 30% Permanent Whole Person Impairment. Once, the threshold was 15%. And reviews and investigations have seen repeated recommendations for the threshold to be once again at 15%. From the psychiatrists at the coal face, working with injured workers every day and witnessing the emotional and mental damage that can be inflicted on hard working professionals (all levels of skill and education) who just wanted to do their job. Who would know better than this what seems a valid measure of compensatable injury? These psychiatrists get paid either way. They have no vested interest in the outcome – other than what their training and ethics may compel of them – and that is to be able to work with patients to heal as best they can.

I’m a realist. The threshold won’t be revised now. But whenever a story comes up, a ‘scandal’, a ‘ridiculous’ claim paid out in a six figure sum from ‘tax payer dollars’, please consider that there is SO much more to the story than they would have you believe.

In my case, Workcover sent me to be assessed my a Medical Panel of Independent Assessors because I disputed their finding that I was not bearing the scars of a Serious Injury. I am seeking the right to be compensated for some of the things I have lost. I have done everything that has been asked of me, often at the expense of my young child in many ways, and tried repeatedly to go back to work. And been cut off at the pass every time. Often directly by the people who I have raised complaints about. In a sector working with young children. This has all happened in front of young children that have been entrusted to people from their parents. I still struggle to accept that the sexual offender, the other participant, the denier and the liars are all (still) working with young kids every day. And that they never felt obliged to help or protect me, even it of fear of being caught out. They didn’t have that fear. They still don’t. And I find this facet alone chilling.

The Medical Panel appointment was presumably to reinforce my ‘not injured enough’ status and therefore make it much more difficult (and add another year or so to the timeline) to have any hurt/loss recognised at all.

Amazingly, it seems to have backfired.

The appointment itself had become blurry. I had to get two people to take me into the city to attend. The weeks before we’re difficult and the anxiety crept in. Mindfulness techniques and meditation are not always enough to calm the rising swell. I loathe that feeling of knowing you’re about to lose it – be unravelled emotionally and psychologically in front of several strangers about something so painful – for the purpose of probably-skewed assessment. Ugh. It makes you feel like an utter loser. Pathetic. Not nice. I’ve got my pride 🙂

I made it to the appointment (quite early) and through the 90 minutes of questions and counter-questions. Not unlike the cross examination in the County Court. How did it go? What were they thinking? Who knows! Just confusion.

And then you wait for a letter.

Experiencing the Turtle Effect. Where you want to pull your head and limbs inside a protective shell and disappear from anyone’s view. Ssshhh. Too exposed. Too vulnerable.

I knew it was The Letter, a thick envelope protruding from the letter box last week. It held The Answer. Would I feel let down? Failing to be ‘enough of a mess’ again?

I skimmed the words of the report, feeling a This Was A Moment To Remember but scared to know.

Without doubt. Emphatic. Related solely to the assaults and abuse from this one course of events at her workplace.

30%

The magic number. The one that allows me the privilege (and it’s been a six year road, don’t mistake it for anything less) of a Seriously Injured Person. I’m hurt. They hurt me. I have kept trying to work and they have kept stopping me. I deserve legal recourse and IT’S OFFICIAL.

It’s not something you frame but it’s pretty close now. It is a form of validation that I have been unable to get any other way.

They hurt and abused me. My voice was silenced. And I have paid a price that has had a permanent affect on my psyche. THIS is what the report says to me. In the context of what has happened thus far, this is a win. And one which should/could/might grease the wheels for a complete resolution to the legal process with a few less blows to the body for me.

According to my lawyer, this is a rare occurrence. They sounded emotional when explaining the outcome to me. But remaining quite cautious, as the ‘others’ are legally entitled to dispute everything and always get four times the length of time my side gets to do so.

The thing I am honestly most pleased about is that when the next injured person walks into the Union or legal office, they will hear that against the (obscene) odds you face as an injured person, it IS possible to get recognition for this. It is possible that you’ll feel some sense of validation. Because it just happened, in April 2013.

*I’ll add links later to this post about the terms, process and legal options later today. Now I’m just going to breathe.

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