“Essentially Hijacked” – Sexual Assault Victims Say They Had Difficulty Getting Financial Aid From ACC

Two victims of sexual assault claim ACC discouraged them from making claims and failed to inform them of financial assistance they may be entitled to – and lawyer says this is part of a long-standing pattern. date within the company.

Image file.
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

One of the women, who was raped at gunpoint by a parent who was on methamphetamine and suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, said ACC told her she had better stay on a stipend of work and income because his own process for obtaining weekly compensation was “too traumatic”.

The woman, Sarah *, first applied to ACC in 2012, which paid for therapy, but the company did not advise her that she might be eligible for income coverage even though she was coming from ” stop working because of post-traumatic stress disorder.

It wasn’t until 2019, when she quit work again after battling another bout of nightmares and flashbacks, that she found out she might qualify for an income allowance of CCA and could exceed payments of work and income allowances.

But Sarah said an ACC staff member then discouraged her from applying.

“She said to me, ‘I wouldn’t apply if I were you. You need to have an assessment with a psychologist which takes about four hours. Most people find it too traumatic to complete the process. I would apply through WINZ if I were you ‘. “

Sarah’s notes on the phone call indicate that the CCA staff member told her, “Most people don’t apply because it takes so long and it’s very difficult.”

Sarah said she told the staff member that she wanted to apply for a weekly allowance anyway, but only received application forms for a lump sum allowance. She asked how to re-apply for weekly compensation in July 2020 and the staff member told her she didn’t know but would find out and send him instructions, Sarah said. Nothing ever happened.

Later that year, a psychologist informed Sarah that if she wanted to apply for a weekly benefit, she would have to see her GP who could fill out an ACC45 form for her.

“It was the first time that I received clear instructions on how to apply,” Sarah said.

Sarah applied the next day, but her application was rejected. “The ACC refused my claim for work compensation because I was not employed on the date of the first incapacity, which they conclude to be the date on which the general practitioner filled out the ACC45 form.”

CCA rules view the date of injury for sensitive claims as the date on which the claimant first seeks help for a mental injury, rather than when the abuse or sexual assault has occurred. . Eligibility for wage compensation depends on whether a claimant is working when they first apply for help.

“I explained that if VAC had told me how to apply when I first asked them over two years ago, I would have been an employee by that time,” Sarah said.

“I asked the ACC to take responsibility for this. They didn’t, even though the date I first asked them is in their own records.”

Sarah has filed a formal complaint with the ACC, but she believes the issues she encountered were systemic. “It shouldn’t be that difficult for sensitive applicants to know what they may be entitled to with ACC.”

“It makes me wonder how many other victims are out there who should be getting weekly compensation for lost earnings but who have been misled.”

She also felt abandoned by the medical professionals she had seen over the years who didn’t seem to know she could get financial help from ACC. “CCA has an obligation to make sure that suppliers know the legislation, know what they are offering, and know all the processes, but they just aren’t.”

Problems with ACC had hampered her recovery, Sarah said.

“It’s incredibly difficult to fight ACC while battling a mental injury, I understand why so many sensitive claimants fail to complete the financial compensation process, ACC obstructs and responds where they need to be. ‘to be.”

Another woman, Eva *, told RNZ ACC that she advised her not to file a sensitive complaint after being raped as a teenager.

She had previously filed a sensitive complaint about childhood sexual abuse and said her case manager told her not to file another. The same case manager also told her to “not worry” about submitting evidence that she spoke to a high school counselor in 2008 about the abuse she suffered as a child, said Eva.

The ACC then denied her income compensation claim because it viewed the date of the injury as the first time Eva informed her GP of the abuse, which was in March 2014, when she was not working.

Eva said if the date of the injury had been counted as when she spoke to a counselor in 2008, she would have been covered. She said the case manager who previously told her not to submit evidence gave her the wrong advice.

“It took me so long to approach the ACC because the information is not clear.

“I have a feeling that VAC’s business model works without you knowing what you’re entitled to.”

“Essentially misguided”

ACC claims lawyer Brittany Peck, John Miller Law, said ACC used to not tell clients what they were legally entitled to.

“The CCA actually has a legal obligation to facilitate rights. But we don’t see it, and I think this is particularly lacking in the area of ​​sensitive claims.

This was especially evident when it came to financial support such as weekly pay, loss of potential earnings, lump sum payment and independence allowances, Peck said.

Peck represented Sarah and believed that she had been “essentially hijacked” by the ACC.

“Encouraging sensitive claimants to access monetary compensation is really lacking on the ACC side, and if these people do not have access to advice or support, like [my client] until she comes to see us, they don’t know what we’re telling them isn’t right. “

ACC Green Party spokesperson Jan Logie said the process for applying for financial support needs to be more transparent and easier to follow.

“A survivor described the current process to me as ‘being sent to a mind forest without a map’.”

Logie had heard “horrible and bloody” stories from survivors who had struggled to find out what their rights were.

She said she heard from people who had been told by ACC that it was not worth applying because they didn’t have a job, or that if they applied, they should repay their allowance, she said. It wasn’t true, she said.

“There is a feeling that they received some misinformation along the way, and simply described it as a brutal process. It is a clear signal that we need change.”

ACC responds

Gabrielle O’Connor, Chief Operating Officer of ACC, said ACC was “committed” to Sarah’s recovery and “making sure she receives the support to which she is entitled.”

“We are sorry that she found the process to seek help from ACC difficult. We continue to work with her to find any medical evidence that may affect her eligibility for weekly compensation.”

O’Connor took issue with Sarah’s claim that ACC staff had discouraged her from seeking weekly compensation, saying that ACC’s call scores did not match Sarah’s.

“We recognize [she] got a different impression from the conversation and we apologize. “

O’Connor also said that once Sarah’s claim was approved in July 2020, the ACC “immediately reviewed her weekly compensation claim.”

Sarah asked why she had never been told about this. “If someone really looked into the question, then why didn’t they tell me? I had asked three times at this point.”

Meanwhile, O’Connor has denied deliberately withholding information about her rights from Eva and argued that she did not need to file a second sensitive claim.

O’Connor said a decision on Eva’s first claim will be made once she completes the warranted assessment.

“If coverage is accepted, then we will look at rights, including weekly compensation or potential loss of earnings. The claim will cover the mental injury resulting from the abuse she suffered. Therefore, a second claim for a separate event is not necessary, and that is the advice his recovery partner gave him, ”said O’Connor.

* Names have been changed.

Where to get help:

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