ACC resumes payments to cut-off clients

By Martin Johnston

Peter de Waal will receive back pay after his compensation was cut off for refusing ACC unlimited access to information.
Peter de Waal will receive back pay after his compensation was cut off for refusing ACC unlimited access to information.

ACC is restarting payments to claimants it had unlawfully cut off for rejecting its demand for wide access to personal information about them.

But the Accident Compensation Corporation is not saying how many claimants' entitlements were halted by its bungling of consent issues, which led District Court Judge Grant Powell to say in two new verdicts that its actions were "wrong in law".

A corporation spokesman said: "ACC will be proactively identifying those clients who may be affected by this decision to ensure any entitlements are reinstated in a timely fashion."

Aucklander Peter de Waal's ACC case manager phoned him yesterday - after the Herald made inquiries - to explain it was resuming his weekly compensation, with back pay.

The 53-year-old's entitlements were stopped last month for the second time over his refusal to give officials free rein to gather information about him through the ACC167 consent form - despite a judge's ruling in his favour in 2012.

"I don't believe that ACC has the legal power to overturn a court decision," said Mr de Waal, who is married with a 4-year-old daughter.

He was certified unfit to work in 1997 after a medical misadventure arising from surgery in 1994. He is permanently disabled.

ACC stopped his entitlements in 2009 because he returned an amended ACC167 form. Judge Roderick Joyce, however, ordered in 2012 that they resume, with back pay.

The ACC spokesman said, "Mr de Waal's claim is one that needs to be reconsidered following the recent court decision". The corporation has used its ACC167 forms since 2001 with around 50,000 claims a year, typically the more complex or longer-term claims. The forms seek wide-ranging power to gather and distribute a claimant's information for ACC-related purposes, such as assessing entitlement and research.

The corporation revealed yesterday that in response to Judge Powell's criticisms it is rewriting its ACC167 form and reviewing all its consent processes for consistency with the verdicts. ACC receives about 1.7 million claims a year.

Collins: Policy Labour's idea

ACC Minister Judith Collins has blamed Labour for a policy which led to patients being refused compensation for an injury if they refused to sign a privacy waiver.

Ms Collins told Parliament yesterday she had asked the corporation to alter a controversial privacy form, known as an ACC167, which claimants were required to sign before having a claim approved. The minister had also asked ACC to review the wider implications of the form after a District Court ruled that ACC could not decline entitlements because a claimant declined to sign it.

Under questioning in the House, Ms Collins said the form was not illegal, but went beyond statutory requirements.

"The court upheld ACC's right to collect relevant medical and other records. I have advised ACC that I expect them to improve the form so that there is no impression given that a person has no option about what information is provided."

She also claimed that the policy of refusing compensation was first signed off under a Labour Government, by former ACC Minister Ruth Dyson.

- Isaac Davison

- NZ Herald

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