Aug 202019
 

By Gerald

My further comments regarding the following news article (in italics):

Workers’ Compensation Board

The province’s WCB board of directors has been reduced from 10 to seven members, which the province says will save as much as $56,000 in spending.

“The reduced numbers will help to streamline the work done by the WCB board of directors, providing opportunity for more effective and efficient decision-making,” said the province in a release.

The new chair is Erna Ference, who replaces Grace Thostenson. The province says she has a background in workplace health and safety, the agricultural industry and fiscal management.

While the board boasts smaller numbers, the province says there will still be the same proportion of employer, worker and public representatives.

Workers compensation is an ancient relic from the past and serves no useful purpose in protecting workers. Employers are provided protection from civil litigation but they pay dearly into a system that does not work at all for workers as witnessed by workers when they are injured or suffer an occupational disease. The only thing WCB does is cause marital breakdowns, suicides, homicides, family poverty which the Government seems to be quite content with.

A cost saving of $56,00.00 is drop in the bucket and will do nothing to streamline the system as the culture of denial is so deeply entrenched into the system that the only way of saving money for employers is to get rid of it and replace it with modern day disability insurance where premiums are shared by employers and workers. This could be achieved very easily saving millions of dollars a year for employers while still protecting employers from civil action and getting rid of the horrendous task of proving causation which is next to impossible regardless of who has the burden of proof. Does it really matter whether a person breaks a leg at home or at work and may not be able to work again until they recover. 

Another option is to retain WCB as a disability insurance company exclusively for workers and employers but change WCB so that they provide unconditional insurance without the impossible task of some one whether it be the worker or the “Board” proving causation. Who really cares!

In my humble opinion it is grossly illogical to pay two disability premiums when one would suffice. I pay for one comprehensive home insurance policy and do not pay home replacement costs, one for the roof and one for the remaining structure. I do not pay collision insurance for the front part of my car and another collision insurance for the back part of the car. I do not pay life insurance for death caused by injuries or disease to the upper part of my body and separate life insurance for injuries or diseases to the lower part of my body.  

For those of you who do not know anything about dual disability insurance that public servants and WCB employees receive, it works like this. When a worker with dual disability insurance is injured, suffers any medical condition, they file a claim simultaneously with WCB and the private insurer. The private insurer responds immediately and a worker starts receiving short term disability benefits as opposed to WCB who have to decide whether the accident or medical condition arose out of and occurred in the course of employment. This could take decades. If the private insurer’s Medical Consultants determine that it is a work related injury or disease, they continue to pay disability benefits but have the worker sign documents which if WCB accepts the claim, any money a worker receives goes back to the private insurer. It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which disability insurance is better, WCB who offer conditional insurance or a private disability carrier who provide unconditional insurance.

When considering how much money in salary and benefits are paid to WCB Case Managers and upper level management, DRDRB members, Appeals Commissioners, WCB Legal Counsel, WCB Medical Advisors, support staff, office leasing, furniture etc. it would most likely result in more money paid out for these expenditures than workers receive in disability benefits.

Why should taxpayers pay for dual disability insurance for public servants if WCB provides such great insurance for worker protection. If in fact WCB was totally abolished, no one would miss it at all. A much better plan would be to make disability insurance mandatory on a shared cost between workers and employers with legislation that workers could not sue an employer or a fellow employee in the event of an accident. Disability insurance could be provided by a major insurance company like Sun Life that already provides major corporations like Telus, Government employees and as well as WCB systems across Canada with disability insurance. Sun Life disability benefits are not contingent on proving causation and would kick in immediately for as long as a disability lasts unlike WCB disability insurance which can take decades to receive if at all. I am assisting on four claims, one is 46 years old, another is 28 years old, another is 11 years old and five years old. All are legitimate claims that involved reduced benefits or no benefits at all. With no money paid out by WCB for work related accidents, it is tax payers who are supporting these workers through Social Services and CPP disability payments. In all of the four claims the workers were being supported by Social Services or Services Canada (CPP disability). Interesting enough is that a study in the U.S. concluded that over 76% of the work related pensions to workers were being paid for by tax payers through Social Security which in Alberta would most likely also be the case. The person whose claim went back 46 years had been on CPP disability and AISH since 1992 until he turned 65, costing taxpayers approximately well over $300,000.00 for a work related injury that was eventually accepted by WCB several years ago and received  approximately $13,000.00 as a lump sum back payment which clearly is a joke with no payment by WCB to Social Services, Alberta Health Care and Services Canada who provided the disability pensions and medical care for the worker and his family destroying the myth that the employer funds the system. You can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time and I am one person who you can not fool at all. 

There is good news and bad news after legislative changes by the NDP Government. Good news is the NDP removed the cap on maximum insurable earnings. They also legislated interim payments to workers while their claim is being dealt with by a Case Manager, DRDRB and the Appeals Commission. The bad news is that there is no statute of limitations as to how long it takes for a Case Manager to make a decision. As well there is no statute of limitations to how long it takes for the DRDRB to make a decision and there also is no statute of limitations on how long it takes for the Appeals Commission to make a decision. This could take years. If a worker receives interim relief, the time it takes to go through the appeals process does not seem to matter as workers are being paid interim relief. The bad news is that interim relief is not based on a workers earnings, it is based on minimum wage which means that a worker whose earnings are at the high end will receive minimum wage which will ultimately result in losing everything they own with a good possibility of a worker committing suicide, killing WCB employees, their families or the politicians who are responsible for forcing them into a system that does not work.

Patrick Clayton who most Albertans recognize took the law into his own hands when it was apparent that local authorities refused to assist him. Question is: when local authorities do not protect a person is it a crime to protect yourself? It was determined by the Court that Mr. Clayton was not justified to take the law into his own hands and sentenced him to a prison term. Curiously when he served his time, WCB paid him what he was entitled to but why did WCB not pay him what he was entitled before he took the law into his own hands. He served his prison time and after getting out, WCB paid him and are still paying him for what he was entitled to. Does this mean that in order to receive the benefits a worker is entitled to, that a worker takes the law into their own hands, serves a prison term and then receives compensation after they get out. The moral of this story is that WCB is telling workers that in order to receive the benefits a worker is entitled to, the worker must get a shot gun, go down to the WCB office and threaten or kill WCB employees and then the worker will receive their benefits. Of course WCB did the same thing with Gregory Jacks who blew his head off with a shotgun and after he  was dead, WCB apologized to his widow and paid her the benefits Mr. Jacks was entitled to.

Having spent my early yeas in the military we were taught to take out the people at the top, not the people at the bottom.Using this philosophy, if Mr. Clayton was smart he would have gone to the legislature building and went after the people responsible for his problems and not after WCB  employees who are simply doing what they are allowed to get away with.

Obviously, by abolishing WCB, it  would open Alberta for business with employers from other provinces most likely relocating to Alberta and employers who are presently in Alberta remaining in the province where employers and workers share the cost of disability insurance without the horrendous task of determining causation.

Last but not least, if WCB is such a great insurance plan, why did the Government bring in regulations to exempt numerous employers and workers from having to be covered by WCB which raises an interesting question. When workers and employers who are exempt from being forced into WCB, if an employer or worker covered under workers compensation is involved in an accident with a worker or an employer that is exempt, they can be sued by an exempt worker or employer in the event of an accident where the worker or employer covered under WCB is at fault. In other words, the “Grand Bargain” envisioned by Meredith is not such a grand bargain at all. Better to mandate that all workers and employers be covered under a non conditional disability insurance to avoid any civil litigation involving workers and employers. Why do something half-assed when there is a better alternative.